Tuesday, January 11, 2011

[Rotman] What country starts with "A", but doesn't end with "A"?

[Rotman Series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

Arash is a old friend of mine back from my McMaster Engineering days. After pursuing his Masters of Engineering, he decided to come to Rotman to do his MBA and will be joining Booz & Co in the Middle East when he is finished here. We also went on the Latin America Study tour together in May of last year.

During my visit on the Middle East study tour, we visited the Aga Khan foundation. The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is a group of development agencies with mandates that include the environment, health, education, architecture, culture, microfinance, rural development, disaster reduction, the promotion of private-sector enterprise and the revitalisation of historic cities. AKDN agencies conduct their programmes without regard to faith, origin or gender.

One of their impressive projects was their work with Roshan, a unique telephone company that performed to the same standards of private enterprise with regards to profit generation, but also imposed high standards to their relationships with governments regarding transparancy. Arash had the opportunity to work with Roshan this recent summer and he's written a post about the experience which follows:

Little did I know what adventures awaited me upon starting my MBA at Rotman. Of course it would open new doors and new opportunities, but where exactly was still to be determined. However, I knew that I would have preferred an international experience, as a result of which I also signed up for the Latin America study tour for which we visited Brazil and Argentina. When summer recruiting came around, I applied to both domestic and international opportunities. Of the postings that came up, the one that stood out the most was the one by Roshan Telecom in Afghanistan. Having been born in Afghanistan, I jumped at this opportunity to go to back and work there. I was very young when I left Afghanistan so I never actually got to see the country, so this opportunity was ideal – international work experience in an extremely challenging work environment and the ability to see the country and my extended family.

Naturally, working there was not easy, and definitely not for the faint-hearted. The challenges were numerous – adapting to the local work culture, working with expats colleagues from 20+ countries, and learning about the telecom sector as well as the market in Afghanistan. Imagine doing business in a country where there is little to no rule of law, very little regulations and a largely illiterate population. In addition to this, security restrictions were extremely tight and violations were swiftly dealt with (one intern was sent home for breaking curfew rules). However, these restrictions were definitely necessary – while I was working there, there were numerous incidents in Kabul, including a suicide bombing, roadside bombing, rocket attack on the airport, riots and street fighting. The challenge was to try to reduce the possibility of being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and really, the wrong place could be anywhere, and the wrong time could be any time. Despite this, I did managed to connect with relatives there (they had seen me when I was born but I never met them), and made visits to a couple historic sites in Kabul as well as Herat. It was definitely interesting to see some of the places that my parents saw when they grew up, although things now were radically different. Over the last 30 years of war, the population of Kabul swelled from 400,000 to over 4 million and you could definitely feel it.

My project at the company was as interesting as it was challenging. I had no background in the telecom sector. More specifically, I was looking into a type of fraud that occurs in the sector, which made matters even more complex. My project was to analyze internal detection and treatment mechanisms as well as to come up with potential strategies for preventing this fraud from taking place. After spending days learning about this problem and gathering data, I spent the following weeks working on analyzing the information to develop actionable strategies that could be used to reduce the impact this fraud had on the company. I found it extremely interesting, and I found several areas of improvement that could positively impact the company by improving their fraud strategy.

After work we were shuttled back from the office in downtown Kabul to our guesthouse just on the outskirts of the city. Life was actually less complicated there than it is here – we had room service that cleaned our room every day, we had laundry service and buffet style breakfast, lunch and dinner. I absolutely loved the fruits there – the best grapes and cantaloupes I have ever had in my entire life. After dinner people hung out in their rooms or relaxed out in the courtyard, watched the Indians/Pakistanis play cricket, worked out, played basketball or played pool. All in all, not a bad life, if it weren’t for the volatility of the country.

Overall, it was a fantastic opportunity to work in a challenging environment and with an interesting company. I never thought that coming to Rotman would have enabled me to work in Afghanistan, but it did, and I am definitely grateful for that. In addition to this, the study tour was definitely very interesting and also helped solidify my interest in working abroad. Moving forward, I will be working full-time for a top tier management consulting firm in the middle-east, an opportunity which also came about through Rotman. Not only did my MBA at Rotman open new doors for me, but it opened up the entire world to me – the world truly is my oyster.

[Rotman Series: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]


Anonymous said...

Fascinating post. What type of fraud detection was Roshan looking into?

Joshua Wong said...

My understanding is that the fraud detection was related to customers not paying their bills and through identity obfuscation.

Nasir said...

Every customer should pay there bills to avoid fraud.
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