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The Nutshell Forum organized the fourth international management conference in Karachi on the 8th and 9th of April. The main topic for the conference is ‘Managing in Turbulent” times. The event discusses concerns related to leadership, business strategy, change management, technology, innovation, growth and sustainability which can help businesses to survive in the current economic downturn and prepare them to capitalize on opportunities presently and when the economy improves. The chairman for the conference is H.E. Ebrahim Khalifa Al Dossary, advisor to the Prime Minister of Bahrain and Chairman Intercontinental Hotel. The conference Director is Dr. Upali Mahanama , International thought leader and author of “ Marketing Skills in Management.”
H.E Ebrahim Khalifa Al Dossary, spoke at great length on the topic “Leadership in Crisis”in which he highlighted the fact that leadership is one of the least understood social subjects. It is the power to get things done effectively and efficiently whilst minimizing errors. He also pointed out that there is a difference between managers and leaders. The former controls things but does not change the direction of things whereas the latter influences and makes things happen and therefore can change the direction of things. Leaders are pioneers and a position does not make a leader, rather it is a leader who makes the position. As the world is changing there is a great deal of uncertainty as well and the role of leadership is also evolving. He pointed out that you cannot lead today’s workforce with yesterday’s mentality. From dictatorship it is now democratic, centralization to decentralization, secretive to transparent and conventional to innovative.
In order to be a leader in a crisis situation, a number of distinguishing qualities will be required. Some of these include integrity, self discipline, and the power of instinct, common sense, as well as foresight and speed. In a crisis, followers have needs which a leader needs to meet. They need someone who is trusting, compassionate, and is able to execute plans effectively. The leader should be energetic, and have emotional wisdom.
Each leader should have their own brand and identity which stands for something people can identify with. The discussion ended on the note that tough times don’t last but tough people do.
Mr. Salman A. Wassay, Director Marketing , China Mobile Pakistan Limited spoke on the topic “Managing through a Downturn”. He said that passion combined with knowledge and competency creates a great leader. According to him the country has always been in turbulent times and even in the 90’s the country faced difficulties when sanctions were imposed. He defined what a downturn means and highlighted some of its signs including: slowing of the GDP, increase in unemployment, rising inflation and a drop in demand. At such times, companies normally experience a hit on their revenue in terms of lower sales. Sometimes one can’t blame everything negative on the economy. It could be an industry issue or the environment at that particular point in time. He cited the example of Paktel that failed because of a lack of vision and they missed out on a huge opportunity. The impact of a downturn is not always universal. Many industries are suffering, but not all; the global wireless industry and mobile broad band is still growing. In fact the industry is actually booming. The daily web usage on mobile devices has doubled over the last twelve months.
In a downturn one needs to manage better. A closer look needs to be taken and attention needs to be paid as to how much of the performances are driven by the market, what competitors are doing and whether other products are giving a better value for their money.
He emphasized the fact that the worst mistake to make in a downturn is to stop promotion. One must not forget ones customers as they do need to be reminded from time to time. At times diversifying in a downturn reduces risks and brings in stability.
He quoted the example of Zong as a company that is continuously investing in its network and technology. There is a heavy investment going in the brand as there is a need to build it and also they are investing heavily in people in terms of bonuses etc. They have offered new packages based on research such as Break Time Offer – this is a package that is mainly directed at housewives who may be needing it most at this time in the afternoon where there is usually a dip in usage. Others include Flexible Happy Hour and have a package that rewards loyalty with a handset. They try to reach the consumer through alternative distribution channels. There are still 50 % of users who do not know how to SMS , so they will try to train them and this will later on be a source of revenue for the company.
In conclusion, an economic downturn separates the well managed companies from the others.
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