Ian Watson | Chief Executive Officer | Cellcard

Ian Watson: With the Challenge of Leading the Digitalisation of Cambodia

There is quite a need of implementing new ideologies with a touch of a healthy environment in order to flourish one’s business. When it comes to running a business such as a telco operation, implementing technological advancements becomes a need rather than a want. No organization would prefer to dwell on previous traditional methodologies in order to attain a firm stature in the market.

Meet Ian Watson, Chief Executive Officer of Cellcard, who understands market demands and effectively leads his team to achieve the desired goals. He manages the company in Cambodia with an entrepreneurial mindset often driving his team to think and plan well ahead into the future. His unique ideologies helped the company to pave strong business structure for others to march on.

Being Customer-centric 

By providing reliable products and services, Ian and his team try to meet the demands and expectations of their customers effectively. When the clients engage with Cellcard through one of the touchpoints, the company strives to provide a seamless customer experience across all channels whether they are managed by Customer Service, Sales or the distribution partners. Hence, Ian and his team, do not view this as a providing a product but rather as giving a full customer experience from Cellcard.

The Driving Force 

Ian Watson is driven by the idea of building Cellcard into the leading digital service provider in Cambodia. By quoting, “It’s not about the CEO. It’s about the team” he emphasizes his great enjoyment in working with his  team. He believes that he can only be as good as the team he works with and builds. He and his company are on a journey to deliver, to all Cambodians, the best data network in Southeast Asia with relevant products and services to make their lives easier, to communicate whoever, wherever, and whenever they want or feels to. This has driven him and his company to achieve many milestones in their path.

Over the past three years, since the company launched its award-winning data network, Cellcard has won 26 awards from leading global bodies such as Ooka, Opensignal, International Finance Magazine, IDG ASEAN and International Business Magazine. His company gained all these achievements by proving themselves as one of the best teams in delivering a world-class digital network in Asia. Ian and his team sees digitalization as the next stage to advance the Cambodian economy and improve lives through education, entertainment, and commerce.

An Employee-centric Work Culture 

Ian states that the company has a very open and transparent management team and is proud of the diversity it holds making it an international team consisting of professionals from the UK, Hungary, El Salvador, Chile, Australia, Netherlands, Malaysia, Philippines and the Middle East. “It is very open and transparent culture where we share professional experiences from all over the world ”, says the CEO.

Being a CEO, Ian’s job is to lead the team as if commanding a ship at sea. He is humble in nature and states that all the hard work and day-to-day running is carried out by his team while he sets the direction. He believes in unique ideologies and a mantra of ‘It’s not the biggest who survive, it’s those who adapt the quickest’ and this is very important in the digital age, he said.

Embracing Technological Facets 

In such as fast-paced and evolving industry such as telco, Ian and his team are innovators with using new technologies such as chatbots, VR and AR, and AI in their automated services, digital tools and platforms and digital marketing. He is actively working with his HR department to evolve the organizational culture to drive and deliver digital transformation, including onboarding new resources with the needed digital skillsets.

We might have won 26 awards. But it’s not the accolades which concern us rather they show us that people are recognizing what we’re doing as a company to change this country. We class ourselves as one of the pioneers of the digital revolution here in Cambodia. And as a such, we’re looking at building a world-class innovation and experience center next year to showcase our technologies from AR and VR to smart cities, connected homes and virtual classrooms,” says Ian. He also states that the company is one of the first in the world to complete 5G testing with speeds reaching an impressive 1.6 gigabits per second. These are the types of speeds customers of the near future will demand to live their digital lifestyles, as we move into the fourth industrial revolution.

A Glorified Vision 

Ian’s vision and mission is to build the best digital lifestyle services company in Southeast Asia, which encompasses both technology and people – the individuals who will take the businesses forward. Because, when it comes to technology, possessing skilled individuals is necessary in order to push the business towards a better path. He believes in his team and maintaining compassion with each of them. He takes a walk across all departments every single day from customer service, to technical, sales and distribution in order to create a healthy and free-to-talk environment in the offices. He also talks to customers and hosts a Breakfast with the CEO once a month. He states that any member of the team from the cleaner to one of the senior directors can come and talk to him and other C-level executives. This kind of harmonious workforce which is also the driving force, has had helped Cellcard to achieve continued success in Cambodia.

One Must Never Stop Learning 

Ian explains that there is no room for arrogance in his style of doing business. He says he does not presume that he is always right and respects and appreciates feedback from others, always believing that one must continue to learn and grow – even at the most senior of levels.

He states that being an open CEO was the right way to build, re-engineer, and take the company into the digital society of the future. He does not imply that it is the only right way, but suggests that one must find his or her own way to lead and flourish the business. “I benchmark with the CEOs, other people in the industry and outside the industry to make sure our vision and my working mantra is good enough to drive this company to the next stage,” addresses Ian. He feels grateful for his role as Chief Executive Officer of both the Royal Group ICT Division and Cellcard, and that he and the Chairman share the single vision of a fully digitalized Cambodia. As part of a large conglomerate, they work very closely together driving collaboration and synergies across all of Royal Group which consist of more than 30 operating companies. Ian says it’s all about partnerships, relationships, and making sure the communication channels are open so people know what their targets are, what the vision is, and to make sure they share and contribute to that.

A Glimpse into the Future 

Being in his mid-50s, Ian believes it is critical for him as the leader of such an innovative company to empower his team, mentor them strongly and prepare them for when he steps towards his retirement. He has a very young and dynamic management team consisting mostly of mid-30s professionals with more than half being women. Ian and his HR team are aiming to achieve similar levels of diversity across the entire Royal Group and have recently appointed the group’s first woman CEO for the Internet Service Provider company Ezecom.

An Advice to Rely On 

Well, I think my advice is, ‘Build a good team’. You’re only as good as the team that you have. Make sure every day you spend time mentoring and building team spirit and a good rapport. To guide them, to help them, and also to learn from them. I’m not some guy who knows the answer to everything. I learn new stuff every day from the team. They come to me with new ideas, new ways of doing things. So what I give as a takeaway is the key to building a successful company is bonding and working with the right people around you.

Quote: “It’s not the biggest who survive. It’s those who adapt the quickest, and this is very important in the digital age.”

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