Feb 23

A heartfelt email conversation I had with a former colleague

I very much enjoyed and was heartened by this email conversation I recently had with a former colleague who previously worked in Zain Jordan’s mobile operation, who made a detailed comment on my biography.

Accordingly I wanted to share this with my website visitors. (his name is withheld for privacy purposes)

Subject: RE: Your book
19 Feb 2013
Dear Dr. Saad,

I have read your book with great interest, and I hope you would be kind enough to read my feedback about it. Apologies should you find it too long and many thanks for taking the time to read it.

When we were young we used to fancy comic books superheroes, we grew up doing so until this very moment, I watch every single superhero movie several times and wait for any every year, what a joy! Regretfully none of these heroes are Arabic, they are all American, by time and over the so many years the idea of Arabic Superhero has faded and long forgotten.

During my journey in the telecom world, I met its version of superheroes, as usual, all western, the great and late Steve Jobs whose contribution to our industry changed the world for good, Bell Gates of the nineties whose milestones made me choose telecom for a career when I was just a foolish and stupid kid from humble and poor Zarka in Jordan. By time I came to realize my business heroes, too, aren’t Arabic.

Then came Saad Al Barrak, whose name meant nothing to me probably 10 years ago, and suddenly for the first time in a very very long time I find our telecom superhero, I was very excited about you Dr. Saad, what you did and the historic transformation of telecom industry in the region was just and only rational result for your outstanding business conduct. Many may argue some of your ventures where slip-ups but who among us can deny it wasn’t all worth it?

However and in the spirit of transparency, I was in a complete shock when I learned from your book on how you left, I imagined you going down swinging, instead you simply chose to quit! Things get ugly, they often do, and money is shareholders’ only friend, you never were, and so they wanted to sell Africa! So what? I thought you wouldn’t save a single blood drop fighting till they ask security to escort you out of the building if they have to! Instead the captain abandoned the ship and simply chose to leave only because he didn’t like where it was going! I am in utter shock, I might be insignificant to you but you were my role model, my superhero, and when the stuff hits the fan everybody runs and super heroes stay and fight, for our generation’s last hope isn’t money, education or big corporations. Role models, like you, are.

Going down swinging is an honorable failure.

Notwithstanding all of this, you are and always will be a role model to follow, I bit my lip every time I see highly paid foreign CEO taking over positions in big corporations around us, especially when they don’t really worth it and you were an exception because you are a fellow Arab Kuwaiti who really earned it. It is an honor for just reaching you through this email and I hope one day I get to shake your hand, I ran into you several times but you were THE CEO back then and any attempt of reaching out to you may and probably would have been interpreted in a wrong way.

On a separate more fundamental note, I wonder if you ever measured the incremental increase in revenues after switching to the Zain brand, you mentioned in your book several big increases in revenues and customers, but there isn’t clear indication on whether the juice was really worth the squeeze. We are currently running into huge rebranding (about which you will hear soon), and since brand positioning if different from one country to another, we struggle with defining measurable impact over 5 years for rebranding our measure operations across the world. If re-branding doesn’t really come back with money then what is the use of it? some of the increases you mentioned where coming anyway due to natural increase in competition and revenues like Iraq. Where although Zain Iraqi unit merged with another and cost you billions of dollars on top of rebranding, we still managed to beat them in revenues, so what’s the points?

Another point and I sincerely apologize for taking too long and appreciate your patience thus far, on the CSR issue, in “the rise of PR and the fall of advertising”, Al Ries explained exactly how and why each and every PR activity- including but not limited to CSR -must come back with revenues to the company, we are in the business of making money, so why would we do anything if it doesn’t come back with money?! In “the science of being rich” Wallace Wattles explained that being rich is the source of all happiness, because when you are rich you afford to help others, so if we direct all CSR activities towards measurable incremental increase in revenues then with the additional money we can afford to make more CSRs. Don’t you think that the only reasons of winning the hearts of customers is so that their wallets follow too?

Finally sir, I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to read all this, I was flying back to  to my current place of work today when I finished your book on the plane and couldn’t rest until I wrote it.

Watching and following your achievements over the years has been a true pleasure. I wish you all the best sir.

My regards,

………..

From: Saad Al-Barrak
19 Feb 2013
Subject: Re: Your book
Dear …

I want to start by saying that I passionately and happily read your email and feedback on the book.
The very purpose of writing the book is for young people such as your good self can review my adventure and hopefully learn from any success and the many failures!! I want to thank you for your insightful remarks. When I decided to leave Zain, the objective was not to quit fighting, but to move to a new space and challenge where we can a launch a bigger fight and a much more honorable and worthy battle. Where we can pursue a larger dream and a more holy cause. I would rather lose in an honorable war than be victorious in a dirty war where all of us would be losers. A great warrior is the one who picks the right fight for the right cause. Being proactively selective on where and when to go next is the art of great warriors for whom failure is not an option! Life and our dream is larger than Zain and very much beyond it. Zain was only a station and not a destination!!! Your comments on branding and CSR are highly appreciated, and YES…Earning Money out of it should be the testimony of it’s effectiveness…But only as a measurement tool and should not be in it’s intent! Winning the hearts and minds of your community should the intent…By this you can make history!!! And when you make history…You are bound to make much more money than others who are merely focused on making money…. That is the test of history and the worlds greatest achievements. Thank you my dear brother from the bottom of my heart and please accept my warmest regards and best wishes…

Saad Al-Barrak

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