Warid rising

Abu Dhabi-backed mobile operator Warid Pakistan is making a play for Pakistan’s high-end customers

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Warid rising Muneer Farooqui, CEO, Warid Pakistan, says that the company aims to grow by tapping demand from high-end customers.
By  Roger Field Published  September 6, 2010

Pakistan, much like its neighbour India, is widely viewed as a telecom market dominated by low ARPU users, with subscribers spending an average of just $2 to $3 a month on mobile services, according to data from Ireland-based Research and Markets.

Furthermore, with five mobile operators, Pakistan is also fiercely competitive.
But while such a price sensitive environment might be expected to provoke most operators into a destructive price war, Warid Telecom, the country’s fourth largest operator by subscriber numbers, is keen to steer clear of a fixation on price.

Indeed, the operator, which is 70% owned by the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Group, and 30% backed by Singapore’s leading operator, SingTel, is far more set on developing its reputation as an operator committed to the quality of its network. And to this end, the company is making a play for high-end customers in a bid to drive growth.

And while the company’s position as Pakistan’s fourth largest operator out of five players may have disappointed some, Muneer Farooqui, who took over the reigns as CEO in March after serving for four years as CEO of Warid Bangladesh, is optimistic that Warid could soon move up the rankings.

The company currently commands a market share of about 17% and has some 17 million subscribers. This compares with the market leader Mobilink which has about 32 million subscribers, number-two player Telenor with about 24 million subscribers, and Ufone, which has about 20 million subscribers. The fifth operator, Zong, a unit of China Mobile, was launched in Pakistan in 2008.

Despite Warid’s current fourth position in the market, Farooqui is optimistic that the company can move up the rankings. “The reason for that is the unique selling proposition that Warid carries, which is helping us grow further in the market, is the quality of the network. Warid qualified as the best network in terms of quality on technical parameters and as the best network service provider,” he said.

This has helped Warid attract a greater number of high-end users and business clients, and the company now has the second biggest post-paid subscriber base in the country, according to Farooqui.

“That is another endorsement. Globally, the post-paid subscriber base reflects on the kind of a network it is and on how loyal the customers are. We are almost on par with the incumbent. We have a high share of the post-paid business as well,” he says.

According to Farooqui, about 3% of the company’s users are post-paid and therefore, pay a monthly line rent and also a higher denomination subscription. While this might sound modest, it equates to over 500,000 post-paid users, which have been instrumental in raising Warid’s combined ARPU to about $3.5.

Farooqui estimates that post-paid ARPU is between $12 and $14 compared with pre-paid ARPU of $2 to $2.5.

Clear vision

In a market with five operators, Farooqui insists that the one of the main ways Warid differentiates itself from its rivals is through the simplicity of its packages.

Prior to launching its network back in May 2005, the directors of Warid researched the Pakistani market and found that there were “a lot of complex post-paid packages” in the market and it was difficult for end-users to differentiate between them, according to Farooqui.

“Many times there were hidden charges and what you see is not what you actually get, so what we decided upon was quality and simplicity. These are the core values of our organisation,” he says.

“Based on that we made it very simple and we developed simple packages and there were no hidden costs. That helped us a lot.”

Since entering Pakistan, Warid has worked with network vendor, Ericsson. More recently Warid also started working with Huawei on the radio side of the network, although Ericsson remains its core vendor.

Warid also outsources its network operations to Ericsson, and it was the first operator to introduce the concept of managed operations to Pakistan. “It has definitely helped us and we have benefited, because we wanted to concentrate on our core business of selling airtime, not running the network,” Farooqui says.

Among the high-end users that Warid has been targeting are corporate and business users. “They are the opinion leaders and decision-makers in this society  and so we definitely give due attention for the corporate clients. We have got good corporate clients on board as well. Our credibility has helped us to gain and retain them.”

The introduction of mobile number portability in Pakistan in 2007 also helped Warid attract additional post-paid customers. A lack of number portability had been a barrier to post-paid users who wanted to shift to another network, and Farooqui says that Warid won “a good share” of the portability numbers.

Adding value

While Pakistan’s mobile market is dominated by voice services, Farooqui says that Warid’s subscribers are becoming more aware of various mobile applications and that a significant proportion of users are moving towards GPRS and EDGE data services.

The operator is also introducing a greater range of value added services (VAS) and now offers its customers a choice of about 60 different VAS. The popularity of data services and VAS is evident from the strong customer uptake, with about 9% of Warid’s revenues now generated by VAS, according to Farooqui.

2875 days ago
Ali

Being a warid user i think it has the best service. believe me it all comes down service ultimately. I hope they dont comprimise on quality rater quantity going forward. i hope most warid users are there because of network quality.

2878 days ago
Warid User

Although Warid has a good thing going, they have to be pretty serious about their long term busienss prospects and whether they want to stay in this business. A couple of months ago, it was just touch and go, with rumours implying that Warid would be sold off or merged.

Warid needs to focus on its Marketing strategy especially for corporate customers, which currently is non-existent and lacks strategic vision & direction. Further, the Warid brand is somewhat subdued when compared to Mobilink, Telenor and even Ufone. Users still identify with Indigo, meanwhile if you asked the brand name of Warid postpaid, everyone would go blank (even some employees).

2879 days ago
Zubair Chughtai

Yes this is true that Warid is the Best network of Pakistan and problem with is not have good marketing, but in quality it is far ahead from other operators in Pakistan.
I hope warid will solve its orginaziational problems soon and because market leader also Warid have lot to do with in organinaztion like restructuring etc

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