Mahnoor Nadeem joined the REDtone Group in 2019 and currently holds the position of Group Vice President and CEO at REDtone Digital Services. Working on new initiatives and start-ups along with bringing several digital products, she feels that there are a lot of opportunities and space for new digital ventures in the Pakistan market and it is just about strategically working on the needs and aspirations of the market.
We got an opportunity to ask her about the rapidly changing digital landscape of Pakistan post pandemic and the role her company is playing in this field.
Tell us a bit about yourself?
Born and raised in Karachi, my education started from Convent of Jesus and Mary which was continued to my A Levels from The Lyceum. I then moved to London to pursue an LLB, followed by a double degree, BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course) and LLM (Master’s in Law) from Lincoln’s Inn and City, University of London. After completing my education, I worked in the legal industry and then made a transition to the telecom, digital and start-up space.
The REDtone Group was established and run by my father for over a decade. I have been fortunate to have observed the telecom industry very closely through him since it’s a 24/7/365 gig. As the Group Vice President of the REDtone Group and CEO of REDtone Digital Services (RDS), my role encompasses overall management of our key functions and with a primary focus towards building strategic partnerships for each company and bringing value proposition for all group entities.
The current focus is our digital transformation front, where we work on new initiatives and start-ups along with bringing several digital products that we earlier worked on internationally and slowly making space for them within the Pakistan market.
What do you most love about your job?
I feel passionate about introducing new and nascent technologies and connecting ecosystems. Being a digital and tech company we are able to touch so many lives and make a difference in the way people connect and communicate. Working on ways to make life easier through our services, helping stay connected and accessing the online world with just a tap, especially by working in underserved areas across the country gives us an opportunity to make a difference and add value where we can.
The digital landscape of Pakistan has changed rapidly post pandemic. Has the digital infrastructure been able to match it & how much investment is still required ?
Infrastructure is still an area, which needs a lot of work and investment. There are a number of companies working on this front, including support from the public sector with new and improved policies, however, there is still a lot of ground to cover and will take a few years.
What we are seeing now is a much better collaborative stance from both the public and private sectors; this will lead to better investment roadmaps and will reduce timelines and friction.
How has the retail sector changed digitally in the last year? What solutions does your company provide for this?
Technology is making everything easier, more accessible, streamlining processes, and enabling us to function even through the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. It has made it easy for us to collaborate, work from home and optimise processes like never before.
REDRETAIL (Har Store, Super Store) is our retail-digitisation platform that is on a mission to digitise retail stores across Pakistan. We do this by offering our own proprietary hardware and software solution to retail/kiryana stores and connecting them to an eco-system comprising of manufacturers, distributors and customers. This helps us to work with merchants without them having to invest in costly hardware or ePOS systems and gives them access to a host of services including bill payments, school fee payments, debit and credit card acceptance, hyperlocal/eCommerce deliveries, inventory, credit and customer management etc.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
I was in school when I first heard of the term, ‘servant-leadership.’ I thought I understood what it meant during my runs as Head Girl, but I think I am now truly understanding the value and essence of something which seemed quite simple. In essence, the advice was to remain humble and grounded, to remain focused, and to always remember that a position of leadership isn’t only about leading, but more so about serving those you lead.
What are some of the Key moments in your life and people that influenced you along the way (a mentor)?
I found my mentors quite literally at home in my parents. My father is the reason I’m in the industry and the dictionary behind all my telecom and digitisation knowledge. I grew up in the telecom world through his lens and that’s where my passion for the same began. My mother on the other hand pushed me to always go the extra mile, providing me with access to opportunities like summer camps around the world from a very young age and truly enabled me to take my own decisions as to what I want to do with my life.
I have also been fortunate to find mentors in my principals from school. Sister Mary and Mrs. Scheherazade Ahmad were two incredible leaders, who stood true to their values and always led from the front.
According to a report (Digital 2020) there is a gender gap in social media users. Worldwide women are 28% more unlikely to be ‘Unconnected “ to the internet as compared to men. If the gender digital gap is closed it has the potential to improve economic and social conditions, especially for women in developing countries. Your comment
I will comment on this from a local standpoint pertaining to Pakistan and have noticed that we have a large number of female entrepreneurs with incredible talent, who produce some of the finest goods, but may struggle to sell or advertise them. A number of these products have the potential of doing very well online and I have now begun to notice that a number of companies have created platforms that are enabling such women entrepreneurs to manage their businesses online. So from this perspective, yes, if we are able to close the gender gap in terms of connectivity and social media usage, economic and social conditions can most definitely improve.
The pandemic has created a lot of women entrepreneurs and those working from home. How can they be better supported digitally?
I see women entrepreneurs playing a major role in transforming Pakistan and paving the way towards a tech-based economy. They have gone from being small entities of a few employees to scaling and reaching major milestones. They have the potential to fill gaps in our market and are creating opportunities for Pakistan on a global map.
In order to do so effectively, I feel they need to be digitally equipped so that they can optimise their processes.
Women entrepreneurs and even start-ups can do so much better with the provision of fast paced internet, inventory management tools, affordable CRM solutions and the likes.
Pakistan’s population is mostly young with 75% below the age of 30. How does this influence your strategy and vision?
We envision being a customer-centric world class service provider by offering a full range of communication and digital services & solutions and to achieve business excellence through commitment and trust. Having a young population enables us to truly work with the audience for these solutions, understand their needs and digitise legacy processes. This can be fast-tracked with a young mindset, something we are enjoying working with in Pakistan.
How best do you maintain a work- life balance?
It has become increasingly difficult to manage a work-life balance, especially in light of the pandemic and working from home. It’s very important to find that balance and learn to curtail work to a certain percentage of one’s day, even whilst working from home. However, this is still a work in progress for me and if I’m being entirely honest, I am hoping to improve this in my life, but currently, with the pace at which we are working, the right balance is yet to be obtained.
What would you consider to be your greatest strength?
I think I am still in the process of truly discovering my strengths, but if I am to say so myself, it would perhaps be the ability to work on a number of key initiatives and multi-task to ensure all are given the right kind of attention. This coupled with working closely with my team on initiatives that we hope are new, innovative and beneficial for our market.
If you were to advocate for one change what would it be?
I advocate for almost everything I believe strongly in, perhaps an innate quality, given my extensive legal training. But if I were to choose one, it would be the acceptance of local product offerings and expertise.
Your future plans? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Work and life have both been relentless and non-stop, but I would hope in the next 5 years, we have played some part in putting Pakistan on the global digital map and have taken our vision of growing Pakistan, going digital to new heights.
Mahnoor is indeed an inspiration who is alongside her full-time roles at RedTone Telecommunications and Quantum Global Communications, provides pro-bono legal services and advice in the UK to non-profit organisations. She also works on corporate strategy and legal matters with a corporate client base.
Mahnoor is an avid debater and sports enthusiast, for which she has also been selected for provincial and national throwball, netball, tennis and basketball teams. When not working, she enjoys a good game of tennis, travelling and reading.