Aamir Ibrahim, CEO Jazz, talked about his early days at Jazz, his vision for Digital Pakistan, and what the future holds for Jazz in a fireside chat with Program Manager National Incubation Center, Fasieh Mehta.
Aamir recounted that he studied Accounting at the University of Texas-Austin.
“I soon realized that I was a marketer trapped in an accountant’s body.”
His first real job was at Jazz (known as Mobilink back then). He reminisced that he walked in, handed over his CV to Zouhair Khaliq, and explained that he wanted to work there. That was 25 years ago.
Today Aamir is the CEO of the largest mobile network in Pakistan. He was also heading two roles at one point, as the CEO of Jazz, along with the Head of Emerging Markets for Jazz’s parent company, VEON.
Working for almost six days a week, he stated that it was crucial to have a really strong solid team. He also stated that the role allowed him to learn and share the learning between different markets, allowing for the cross-pollination of ideas and experiences while simultaneously moving towards digitalization/.
When questioned about the role that he’s enjoyed the most in his career, Aamir responded that any role that gives you excitement and challenges you as a professional is a great role.
“I thoroughly enjoyed being a brand manager for Jazz, [when it was] a prepaid product. There was a lot of perceived negativity around mobiles and it was very expensive at that time,” he explained.
Aamir went on to explain that he never anticipated that Jazz would become as big as it has today.
“It’s the product, and the promise of the product that builds the brand,” he stated.
What excites Aamir is the big digital opportunity in Pakistan. “We want all sectors and citizens to benefits from digitalization,” he said.
Jazz’s vision of Digital Pakistan sees digital technology as an enabler for prosperity. This includes utilizing technology sectors such as Financial Services, Tourism, and Agriculture which contributes to 25% of Pakistan’s GDP.
When asked about what it would take to put a smartphone in every Pakistani’s hand, Aamir stated that it was imperative to reduce the barriers of entry while increasing awareness.
“With the new duties structure, they’ve become more expensive. We need to be more future proof and future-ready,” he said. “I’m concerned about the 220 million people – they deserve better services.”
Jazz is upholding its commitment to developing Pakistan’s digital ecosystem and inspiring the process of digitalization. For example, Jazz has invested heavily in its digital financial services product, JazzCash.
“We are working with the State bank of Pakistan which has a strategy around National Financial Inclusion. We are trying to encourage them to reduce friction – particularly the hefty fees,” said Aamir, “But there is still a lot to be done.”
Aamir stated that the idea for Jazz xlr8, an incubator, came four years ago. Partnering up with the Ministry of IT and TeamUp, the incubator is an enabler for the startup community and means of digitalization in Pakistan. After the National Incubation Center was created, more incubators popped up around the country.
“All the young entrepreneurs who have ideas, need some sort of mentoring,” said Aamir, “It’s just a question of time before one of these startups becomes the unicorn.”
Concluding the session, Aamir stated that his job as Jazz’s CEO can be divided into three buckets – the telecom bucket, dealing with the stakeholders, and devising other areas for Jazz to invest in the future.