Roshan, Kabul, Afghanistan - Exec

Gold Stevie Award Winner 2012, Click to Enter The 2014 American Business Awards

Company: Roshan, Kabul, Afghanistan
Entry Submitted By: Hill+Knowlton Strategies
Company Description: Roshan (Telecom Development Company Afghanistan Ltd) is Afghanistan's leading total communications provider with over 6.5 million active subscribers and a network that covers over 287 districts and cities in all of the country's 34 provinces.
Nomination Category: Management Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Executive of the Year - Telecommunications

Nomination Title: Karim Khoja, CEO

Tell the story about what this nominated executive has achieved since 1 January 2014 (up to 650 words). Describe the impact he or she has had on your organization. Focus on specific accomplishments, and relate these accomplishments to past performance or industry norms.

When Karim Khoja first arrived in war-torn Afghanistan 12 years ago to establish Roshan, telecommunications infrastructure was practically nonexistent. Only 80,000 of the country’s 23 million people had access to phones, and service was confined to major urban areas. For most Afghans, making a long-distance phone call required days of dangerous travel to a neighboring country. Lacking basic infrastructure--reliable energy and roadways-- amidst rampant corruption and security threats, Afghanistan certainly represented, and remains today, a challenging business-operating environment.

However, systemic challenges did not deter Khoja in his dream to bring “light” and “hope” (the meaning behind the name Roshan) to the people of Afghanistan. He saw the potential mobile telephony had to bridge Afghanistan’s massive infrastructure gaps, fuel economic development, and connect millions of Afghans to not only each other, but to the world. Today, his magnetic leadership as Chief Executive Officer and deep passion has helped Roshan become Afghanistan’s leading telecommunications operator, providing coverage to more than 60% of the population in all of the country’s 34 provinces.

Roshan is now Afghanistan’s largest private employer with 1,100 employees, and biggest taxpayer, investing more than $600 million back into the country. Khoja has also spurred indirect employment of more than 35,000 people. Nearly a fifth of all company employees are women--an unprecedented amount and major achievement in a country where women are traditionally denied the same professional opportunities as their male peers.

Beyond building a successful business enterprise in Afghanistan, Khoja had higher ambitions. He envisioned Roshan as a different kind of company, one that offered quality service comparable to well-known international operators, while maintaining the highest standards of transparency and integrity--a difficult endeavor in a region where bribery and corruption dominate. To do so required investment in key talent and systems, which led to industry-leading ISO certifications for Roshan’s technology and network, customer service and sales operations. Roshan also became the first company in Afghanistan to be awarded the prestigious B-Corp certification--meeting rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Recently, Roshan was named to B Corp’s “Best for the World” list for the third consecutive year, putting it in the top ten percent of all certified companies globally.

Roshan’s M-Paisa, Afghanistan’s leading mobile money service, enables more than 1.2 million customers to bank securely. In a country where 97 percent remain unbanked, M-Paisa serves as a critical example of the possibilities a digitally-connected Afghanistan can offer. To date, over $6 million in salary disbursements are paid monthly using M-Paisa, including to the Afghan National Police and Afghan Government employees.

Since Roshan’s founding, Khoja has made a commitment to invest in the communities it serves through its CSR arm--Roshan Community. Major accomplishments include the building of 29 playgrounds in some of the most volatile areas, and 10 schools that now educate more than 5,000 children. Roshan also constructed over 180 water wells to help eliminate tensions in communities fighting over scarce water resources. Khoja has been instrumental in launching Afghanistan’s largest sporting event, the Roshan Afghan Premier League (RAPL) and improving healthcare access through Telemedicine, a unique program which links hospitals across the country to the regions’ top medical institutions, including the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi, Pakistan.

What sets Karim Khoja apart from his peers is his profound commitment to building a company focused on more than business-success. He is steadfastly committed to spurring the economic development of an entire country, with Roshan playing a critical role in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. As the leader of Afghanistan’s largest private enterprise, Karim is a business executive with the authority, resources and vision to improve the lives of millions of Afghans—a challenge he works diligently to meet each and every day.

In bullet-list form, briefly summarize up to ten (10) of the chief accomplishments of this nominated executive since the beginning of 2014.

• Prioritized the recruitment of women; today, 19% of Roshan’s staff is female, including the first ever GSM engineer and retail manager.
• Created Telemedicine Program, which links communities in Afghanistan to renowned specialty hospitals, enabling remote diagnosis and treatment. First open heart surgery by an Afghan doctor was performed using telemedicine.
• Personally mentored two Afghans who have been identified to take over as the next CEO of Roshan.
• Helped to create a prosperous middle class in Afghanistan through Roshan’s direct and indirect employment.
• Cultivated talent internally, providing staff with training, mentorship and opportunities to succeed. Today 96% of all staff are Afghan.
• Utilized renewable energy to power cell towers and CSR projects.
• Focused on expanding mobile usage among women--today, women comprise 20% of Roshan’s customers, a substantial increase from less than 6% when the company began.
• Provided food, medical care and education for up to 200 children in ACHIANA camps.