Central synergies: Oddvar Hesjedal, Telenor Group

Oddvar Hesjedal was appointed as EVP and head of people development of the Telenor Group in March 2011. He shares his plans for the future, and how his company can strengthen its practices across 12 countries.

Before becoming EVP of the Telenor Group, I was CEO of Grameenphone, a Bangladeshi mobile operator which is a member of the Telenor Group. When I worked there, I was responsible for just one company, so my focus was on Grameenphone’s needs. Now that I’m working at the group level, of course it’s important to look at synergies across the different companies in the Telenor Group. It means looking at how we can help them to develop as a whole, rather than focussing on the individual operations of each separate company.

In the Telenor Group, it’s important to us to create mobility between our companies. We want to take the best ways of processing in one company and reproduce its best practice across the others. We hope to take advantage of the best people, maybe moving them around the group so that we can share what they have learnt from one place to another.

In business, there is sometimes a conflict between headquarters and local companies. This is partly because a headquarters can look at processes on a general level rather than what is used locally; but also because, from a central perspective, you are not seeing the local conditions for yourself. One challenge for me now is to make what the headquarters can provide of real value to the individual companies. I don’t want the local companies to see it as imposed control.


What I face as a new presence in the company is sharing Telenor’s culture across all of the companies that we govern across the globe. We operate in 12 countries so we need to start standardising our processes across them in order to become a more efficient industrialised group. The business as a whole faces the challenge of transforming our portfolio from one which is mostly telephone-based services to developing more data-based and internet-based services. We need to have the right priorities so that we can respond to the different markets we cover. We have our mature markets with high internet penetration and more broadband solutions, and also emerging markets where the major earner of revenue is still voice services.

The key to the group’s future is industrialisation. At the same time, it is important that we don’t push too hard and completely centralise the company because it’s important that we keep adapting to our local markets. We need to understand how to do this and it is very important that we take the right steps to implement this. Because I have come into the Telenor Group headquarters from outside, it means that I need some time to develop this right type of thinking. Hopefully, that will benefit both me and the corporation.

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