How we built cellular communications in Cambodia: part 2, about people

    The company's IT division

    The first topic was about how we built a data center and cellular infrastructure of a modern level from scratch in six months, and then abruptly entered the market. This is the second topic about how we talked with Cambodians and how I trained my IT department .

    So, let me remind you, at the very moment of arrival there was "nothing" - a license, a couple of rooms, a small Internet channel. And it was necessary to create a full-fledged competitive operator. And do it in 8 months. Enter the market, launch a brand new for the country. Form a staff. Create a network. Create infrastructure. Create a material base. That is, absolute freedom in any direction.

    The initial plan was: abandon a team from Russia (us), raise a network, train local residents and evacuate, leaving the new company to work in the market.

    Russian help

    First came specialists in infrastructure, billing, business processes, marketing, telephony. The work was huge: technical solutions, the formation of the process, training of hired personnel - everything was done simultaneously.

    Moreover, staff training was very emphasized - everyone understood that it was necessary to transfer a unique and large amount of knowledge, that our presence was temporary and should be maintained in the future, all should be local. The concept of day-night is sometimes erased. I had to work with all time zones at the same time.

    Say, the problem identified in the evening in Cambodia was solved during the day of Russia and ended with the release of the release during the day, but already in the USA, as a result, the implementation of the solution could occur at night. And discussions and newsgroups were going on around the clock for us. I remember even a joke about us that "Cambodia never sleeps."

    At that time, there was an “international bloc” of VimpelCom, and all the forces of employees were left to the task. People are all bright, devoted to work selflessly. Given the simply insanely short time to the deadline - six months where it took a couple of years at least in Russia - it was the fantastic dedication that made it possible to solve all the problems both really and on time. Until now, the guys working on the project are in touch with each other as a team, united by a delightful memory of a torn victory.

    Who called there?

    Cambodia, in my opinion, is a country without a middle class. But also a country of Buddhist culture. At the same time, these two factors give a fantastic effect. The average income in the region of 80-200 dollars. Transport - motobike or car. But not a single motobike is easier than Suzuki or Honda to find. Cars are easier than Toyota too. By the number of luxury cars, Phnom Penh is ahead of our capital. Phones like iPhone are more common than in Moscow, but there are a lot of cheap handsets in the provinces. Great attention to quality. Quality goods (phone, car, thing) are bought, despite the cost. The quality of service, the quality of communication, the quality of the product is at the forefront there and is at the highest level, much higher than in Europe or Russia. And this is in everything - from the café eatery to complex and complex products and services. Trust can be lost instantly and forever.

    There is a local currency, but the dollar is the main running currency. The dollar has remained virtually unchanged in the country for 6 years now. From the point of view of banks, this is more likely an offshore zone of low confidence, however, this is what made it possible to practically not participate in the global currency crisis. The only link with the “big world” is the raw material sphere and “clothes”. The country produces rice and clothes for export.

    Variations of family tariff plans were very popular. In addition to the actual communication services, Beeline launched a large number of affordable and high-quality branded phones on the local market. They have gained real popularity. Perhaps also because we were the first to take into account the peculiarity of the "multi-sim" market. Our phones are basically multisim with one Beeline card stitched. This allowed us to increase our presence and increase interconnect with the simultaneous growth of Beeline community. Such marketing moves were a surprise to the market.

    Globalization got there, and very lively. I remember somewhere before my departure there, the possibility of hosting Google and Facebook servers was seriously discussed in the IT environment. The government held IT forums, with a very serious approach. I was holding in my hands internal reports and plans for the development of the country's IT infrastructure and had the opportunity to see that everything was being implemented, and on time. Probably there is not a single IT specialist in Cambodia who does not have a tablet.

    Without a doubt, there are provinces where they live by hunting and farming, and where electricity is limited. But even in the most nooks willingly bought tariffs with mobile Internet. They have long understood that this is the best way to communicate with relatives abroad. A lot of offices and Internet cafes offering IP-telephony. The number of free hot spots is certainly more than in the vast Moscow.

    I first began to use cloud services there - I spied on the locals. They somehow immediately stepped into the 21st century and enjoy it, they know how to appreciate it.

    IT staff

    So, I understood that I was coming from Russia to do, establish and launch an IT department. The final goal is local employees without exception.The first thing I came across was that I was simply not able to recruit people with the required or familiar experience or education. The fact is that in Cambodia there is a certain bias: the country is very young, everyone is eager for education, so it often happens that a person with an MBA comes to an engineer’s job, and at the same time the engineer’s experience will be at the level of “I set up a copy machine”. No one has even heard of business processes. I had to do something like a local school, give lectures, teach everyone how to approach work, and directly professional skills. I remember, for example, how I composed and gave them lectures on ITIL. We must give them their due - you rarely see more capable students.

    A separate topic is the psychology and culture of Asia.. For example, death. For us, this is a very fatal concept. Anyone with us has information about the death of someone that causes regret, sadness, sadness. A Cambodian will only grieve over his loved ones, and when he learns about the death of one of his colleagues, for example, he will rejoice: after all, a person has moved into a new world. Some reactions are not typical. For example, there are a lot of cases when we react with a smile, but for Khmer it can be the other way around. In cinemas, for example, there’s a “Nightmare on Elm Street”, and they will go watch it like a comedy.

    European culture dictates to a person that he must fight for something, go to something, yes, he must conquer it from the world. The Buddhist culture says that a person has karma and there is luck transferred to him, and this luck should not be missed. This can lead to the fact that a person can just sit and wait for this luck. But we a priori looked for employees with a different attitude, with a more European ability to fight.

    Or, for example, the simplest thing: in the culture of VimpelCom you don’t know - ask; you can always turn, they will answer you; if there is a problem - share it and decide; etc. In the Khmer culture, this is simply unacceptable: if you have a problem, for example, a misunderstanding with the leadership, with anyone, no one will talk about it. Why? Because if Khmer talks about a problem, he will worsen his karma. Therefore, it’s difficult for a Khmer to speak directly with his superiors. He would rather go to resolve issues at the management level or would not go to anyone at all - just so as not to say bad things about another person. I had to explain to them that if they come with a problem, it helps to solve it: that is, it improves karma, but in a tricky way.

    Or a culture of opposition to superiors. This is the education of everyone: listen to the king, listen to the boss and never doubt that they speak correctly. I even had to set my subordinates in a written order such a goal - to object to me at least six times in six months. But they studied, by the way, very quickly: once the Khmer departs from stereotypes, he realizes that he can work faster and better in a new way, enjoys good karma and then does as it should. True, it is important not to destroy their idea of ​​the world, of the workplace, of the correctness of the matter. And then having learned to object to us, the local will then go and object to someone who is not allowed - and this will end badly for him.

    There were nuances of mentality that directly influenced local services. For example, there is such a service as sending free SMS from the site. We are about to launch this service in Cambodia. Our Khmers (already taught to criticize) say: "This will not work for us." We: “why, it's great, isn't it?” They: “No, we do not want this. No, we will not do that. ” The argument is brilliant: “What if someone takes it and sends an abusive message to someone from this site? It will be anonymous. Such an opportunity must not be allowed. We will not use it. ” Result? They convinced us, and we never made this service.

    It was unusual and interesting for me to study local customs. For example, when we moved to a new office that was just rebuilt, lighted sticks appeared there. The entire staff of the IT department, humbly folding their palms with these sticks and displaying “donations” in the form of fruits, performed a local ritual. For them it is important. Therefore, in the future, already for the discovery of something major, we began to invite Buddhist monks. This created a positive effect.

    Employees bless the new office.

    Most local people are very scared of ghosts.. And for them this is not a joke, but really serious. Afraid of dreams. Because for them the content of sleep has a different meaning, not the same as for us. They take this very seriously. There are areas in which, for example, Khmers prefer not to even appear. For example, in Sihanoukville there is such a wonderful hotel. Inexpensive, but with good service, with excellent cuisine. But Cambodians say that at the time of Pol Pot (times of genocide) the pool of this hotel was filled with human heads. Therefore, it is absolutely undesirable for Khmers to stop near this place.

    At the same time, many Khmers have a good education, which does not allow myths about the need for caps from foil to spread. There are no people who write complaints about tower radiation. The generation of older people as such is not there: people are either older than 50-60 years old, or younger than 30 or in the region of 30. The intermediate generation is almost absent, it died during the time of Pol Pot.

    The attitude of local residents towards Russia is also interesting.. They value their own companies very much and are not big supporters of the expansion of foreign companies at home. But still, we came out as a local operator. Yes, Russian roots, but ... and employees and investments, everything is local. Beeline has come as an international brand. Yes, there are still people in the country who remember the Russian presence. Yes, once they studied Russian. But now, of course, all this is mostly forgotten. Most people speak English.

    Yes, and all have the same phones. The Khmers, it seemed to me, are very curious about everything new, progressive. Literally any new technological thing, an expensive gadget, is a toy that attracts, which will go for any price. The same applies to information services. This played, by the way, on the popularity of promotions. No one was afraid to try new things.

    If you have a mobile number, you need to buy similar ones from all mobile operators. Let with different prefixes, but it should be "the same" as a whole at one owner. “Beautiful rooms” cost a lot of money and are also bought and resold. The most expensive number in my memory was sold for 5 thousand dollars.

    Khmers also have many relatives abroad (a consequence of immigration after the genocide). Most in the United States, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand and generally around the world. For them, this is a completely normal component of their life, that they must have a relative somewhere. Therefore, international calls are often made. Hence, a positive attitude towards us as a large international operator.


    A year and a half after the start of the project, everything in the department worked almost like a clock. We went into normal mode, taught people how to work. After that, I moved to the European IT division.

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