All eyes on new chief exec to bring reform to Telekom

By B.K. Sidhu

FAREWELL, Datuk Dr Khir Abdul Rahman. Welcome, Datuk Abdul Wahid Omar.  

That must have been on the minds of the many who witnessed the handover of reins at Telekom Malaysia Bhd from Khir to Wahid at the 50th floor of Menara Telekom at about 6pm yesterday.  

The change of guard had begun much earlier, with Khir and Wahid meeting at 8.30 am for a briefing that lasted close to two hours at Khir’s office.  

Datuk Abdul Wahid Omar

Today, Wahid takes over as the new group CEO of Telekom Malaysia Bhd, a position that commands much clout given that Telekom is Malaysia’s largest telecommunications company (telco) in size and revenue, and one of the largest-capitalised stocks on Bursa Malaysia.  

The change in leadership was part of the restructuring exercise of government-linked companies (GLCs) undertaken by the Government not too long ago.  

But what can Wahid do differently from Khir? Will his hands be tied, or will he be given freedom to manage the company? Will Wahid make sweeping changes and rock the boat after he steps into the 55th floor? Will he adopt a wait-and-see approach, giving everyone a chance to show his or her worth?  

These are some of the questions many are asking, be it in Telekom or outside. All eyes will be on Wahid.  

Today, Telekom also takes a new form, its assets and network infrastructure re-organised into two units – TM Wholesale and TM Retail.  

This was a restructuring the board had approved earlier, and Khir, in his last few days at Telekom, had gone on a nationwide tour to explain the new structure to all employees.  

How Wahid intends to go about doing his job is something only he knows. But the industry goes on with its mutterings.  

Datuk Dr Khir Abdul Rahman

They feel the areas he ought to look at with urgency are customer service, broadband, cellular network, the hiving off of non-core assets, and market perception of Telekom.  

Telekom and its unit, Celcom, have over eight million users. They have two common factors, tariff and value added services.  

How these can be turned into volume and tariff play to boost income is worth pondering.  

As for broadband, the new game is wireless technology and no longer DSL. If Time dotCom can make waves in the market with its Webbit, it is time that Telekom looks into this. Deployment only takes six months.  

There should be no more buying of technology just to please others; it is time that Telekom evaluates the benefits before embracing new technology. There are many young talents in Telekom, and Wahid has to create opportunities for them to be recognised.  

Meanwhile, Khir described his four years as a “very enriching phase,” being head of a reputable organisation.  

“I should thank the Government for the opportunity. I am very happy as I tried my best at Telekom. I will move on after taking a short break,’’ he told StarBiz yesterday.  

A notable achievement in Khir’s years as CEO was the purchase of Celcom (M) Bhd after a high-profile boardroom tussle two years ago. The buying was in line with global trends for telcos to have strong cellular businesses, since future growth was in that sector.  

During his time, net profit grew from RM705mil as at end Dec 31, 2000, to RM1.4bil as at the end of last year. Cellular's contribution has since turned positive from the negative position when he joined. 

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