Telenor’s company in Malaysia, Digi, has just released their report for the second financial quarter of 2017. Despite the expected spin the company attempts with the results, the numbers are grim. Revenues are down, net profit is down, share price is down, and shareholder dividends are the lowest they have ever been. Digi, and Telenor, are struggling to adapt to the Southeast Asian market, and they are floundering. We can debate the factors that have led to the decline of the business, but at the end of the day, there is only one conclusion: poor strategic management.
The #WeAreAllRohingyaNow Campaign has been reaching out to Telenor for months now, advising them that their stubborn silence on the issue of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar is alienating customers in Malaysia and throughout the region. We submit that any company must consider the mood of consumers, and respect their values and concerns. They must consider the impact their political stances (or lack thereof) have on their appeal in the market. Telenor seems to be determined to ignore this. Conventional financial advisors also tend to overlook public sentiment as a factor in evaluating the attractiveness of a company for investors. This is a serious mistake. Public opinion cannot be disregarded.
It can be argued, of course, that Telenor’s decline in Malaysia has nothing to do with the Rohingya issue; but that is missing the point. Telenor’s business in Malaysia IS in decline, and there is no sign of improvement. The first quarter of 2017 was worse than the first quarter of 2016; and the second quarter is even worse than the first quarter. Telenor is obligated to increase market share, revenues, profitability, share value, and dividends. They are failing to meet these obligations with what is becoming reliable consistency.
They need to do something to turn this around.
Their best option in this regard would be for them to tap into the broad public sentiment for the Rohingya issue. Whatever the cause of their decline; making a positive public statement in support of the Rohingya and for the implementation of UN recommendations could win them droves of new customers in Malaysia who would appreciate the company taking a moral stance that reflects their own concerns and values. The #WeAreAllRohingyaNow Campaign would gladly encourage the public to embrace Digi if Telenor issued such a statement.
No matter how you look at it, the only winning strategy for any company is to align itself with the issues their consumer constituency cares about. We sincerely advise and encourage Telenor to finally come out against the genocide in Myanmar, and endear themselves to consumers in the regional market so they can begin to find their way out of the downward spiral of dwindling profits that, otherwise, appears irreversible.