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Greg Young, chief officer, network and value-added services, TTSL

April 15, 2005
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After just four months in India, Greg Young has no doubts at all about the wisdom of having come to Mumbai to work for Tata Teleservices as chief officer, network and value-added services."It's great. I plan to be here for several years. The people are wonderful, they've made me feel very welcome, it's exciting, fun and rewarding. So I certainly won't be rushing back to Melbourne any time soon," he says.

Young was born and raised in Melbourne and the city is still home; his retired parents, younger brother and 10year-old daughter Brianna still live there. Asked if it's a bit surprising in this day and age for anyone to stay for so long in one city, he explains that Australia might be a huge country but it has only five or seven big cities and 75 per cent of the population lives in these cities. So the opportunities for moving around are limited.

He adores Melbourne and passionately endorses its ranking in the Economist Intelligence Unit survey of 130 cities as the world's best city for its quality of life and climate. "I've travelled extensively for the past 20 years for work and I'd say it's easily the best place because it has a beautiful climate, it's affordable, it's multi-cultural, it's got great restaurants, and it's easy to get around," he says.

He is also looking forward to unpacking his cartons and moving into his own flat in Bandra after four months in a hotel.Since Brianna and Young's long-time partner Barbara are both still in Melbourne, he will be travelling frequently to see them.

Barbara plans to visit him as often as possible in Mumbai. As someone who works in the Australian fashion industry and has retail outlets, it was impossible for her to move to India with Young but she's exploring business opportunities here, in particular, looking at India as a sourcing destination to supplement or replace China from where she currently sources her materials.

India as a business environment has proved to be very positive for Young.Before coming, he had thought he might have problems with communication but has discovered that English is the lingua franca of nearly everyone he meets for business. The physical differences he has experienced –­ the population density, the impossibility of walking on the pavement and what he diplomatically describes as the "lack of adherence" to the basic rules of driving –­ are small things that he says anyone can easily adapt to.

"In the business context, there are greater cultural differences in that the level of organisation and the approach to problems is less organised and disciplined than I am used to. In Australia, we probably have a more rigid and disciplined way of tackling things, so it's just a cultural difference. But the level of maturity of the industry that I find here is impressive and improving all the time," he says.

He is particularly impressed with the level of qualifications that most people have, ascribing it to the simple fact that India probably has a higher educational level than Australia and the cultural emphasis on education is strong here."Education here is still valued and highly sought after," he observes.

In terms of the industry, he finds that the regulatory environment is struggling a bit to cope with the fast pace of change in technology, in new entrants, in new products. "I'm enjoying being here because in Australia, the wireless industry has reached the stage where the market is saturated. It's a highly mature industry where there is now only minimal growth.Here in India we're seeing significant growth in absolute and relative terms. I was attracted by the newness of the industry and the amazing growth rates."

The Indian mobile industry is about four to five years behind Australia although Young says the degree of sophistication that is available in services here is comparable to what is available in Australia. The fast pace of change in India means that customers have to take on board and understand fast-changing technology and decide what works for them.

Moreover, they are doing this in one go, without the gradual transition from one phase to another that customers have enjoyed in the West. This means that companies like Tata Teleservices have to educate customers and help them understand what is on offer by way of handsets, services, technology and networks.

"I'm impressed at the high level of awareness in India among customers when you consider that many Indians have jumped from never having had any telecom experience at all –­ having had no ordinary phone –­ to a complicated device.That puts an interesting onus on us to educate customers and that too in a short space of time," says Young.

Young graduated in electrical and electronic engineering from the Swinburne Institute of Technology. His first work experience was as a software design engineer but he soon realised this was not his forte. At Philips Mobile Communcations Systems, where he stayed for nine years, he worked as the product marketing manager, cellular mobile phones, before moving to Telstra. In his last assignment at Telstra, he was responsible for managing the CDMA and GSM voice and data access product portfolios.

"At Philips, my job was a combination of technical and customer functions and I've always enjoyed that blend. I've always oscillated between the two and I find that's more interesting than just having one function."

Young has been elected twice as an officer of the CDMA Development Group (CDG) and currently continues to be an officer and board member of the CDG.He performs an advisory role to global CDMA operators in this assignment.

On management –­ his team numbers more than 100 –­ Young says the key is communication but even more important is the need for genuine, honest and sincere communication. "I've never liked politics behind the scenes. If I'm concerned or bothered about something, I like to say it openly so that people know where I stand.I also try to understand other people's views. There is always the challenge of time, of course, in doing this, but it's very important."

His top priority at Tata Teleservices over the next year is to deliver operational excellence. He wants the company to offer world-class performance on the network and to this end, he is involved in a raft of different initiatives to improve and measure performance against local competitors and world-class global operators.

Working at Tata Teleservices is not so different from work at Telstra, he says, in that both are wonderful organisations.They are both strong on process, have strong business ethics, and are strong in protecting their brand image and position in the market. "In that sense, I feel totally at home, particularly as the people around me are impressive too not just in terms of the technical capabilities of my immediate team but also the broader capabilities of the people around me."

Young loves technology and its potential for improving people's lives. He has a hopeless weakness for electronic gizmos.When the first plasma TV became available, he bought it at once. When the iPod became available, he bought that. To Barbara's eternal bafflement, he is always upgrading his computer software. She can't understand him because, like most sensible women, she sees technology as a means to an end. "I have to keep explaining to her that it's an experience in itself that has to be enjoyed," he jokes. Why do men and women differ so much in their attitude towards gadgets. "I think it's a chromosomal thing, a bit like the way women can't read maps!"

He also loves fiddling around with his home automation system. This allows him to log on to the internet in Mumbai and link up with the home automation server in his Melbourne house. This allows him to remotely control various electronic appliances –­ the lights, the garden sprinkler, the alarm system.

The other day, he gave Barbara a shock. She had invited friends over for dinner and they had just started eating when the lights went out. It was Young, sitting and chuckling in Mumbai, who had flicked the switch. "They didn't believe it was me. So I turned them on again. Then they believed me."

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