Zain Telecommunication Company
“A Colorful World”
Cross Cultural Management
“Culture is like gravity: you do not experience it until you jump six feet into the air.” - Trompenaars and Hampen-Turner, Riding the Waves of Culture.
Organizations are no longer constrained by national borders. Due to globalization, the traditional teamwork has undergone transformation through entry of people from diverse cultures. This development has a marked effect upon corporations and their operations. Besides managing diversity with regard to demographics and functional background, the added task of cultural diversity or multiculturalism in corporations will also have to be addressed. Teams based upon multiculturalism have their associated advantages and disadvantages. Trompenaars et al stated that “culture is a shared system of meanings; it dictates what we pay attention to, how we act and what we value. Culture organizes such values into what Geert Hofstede calls “mental programmes”. The behavior of people within organizations is an enactment of such programmes. Culture is the way in which a group of people solves problems and reconciles dilemmas. Culture also presents itself on different levels. At the highest level is the culture of a national or regional society, e.g. the Netherlands versus the Arab/Bahrain. The way in which attitudes are expressed within a specific organization is described as a corporate or organizational culture.”
Elaborating about (corporate) culture, we arrive at the subject matter of this paper; the telecommunication company Zain. Zain started operating 27 years ago as the first mobile operator in the Middle East. Zain has grown from a modest, single operator in Kuwait to a conglomerate with a commercial presence in 24 countries across the Europe, Middle East and North Africa, with a 5,000 dedicated workforce serving over 35.3 million active customers. With the recent sale of 15 African mobile operations effective June 8, 2010, Zain stands at the threshold of a new era, one that will allow the company to focus on its highly successful and lucrative Middle Eastern operations, investing in new growth opportunities in our existing markets. The company was chosen to serve as a subject matter, as one of the authors was an employee of the Human Resource department of Zain, at the headquarters for Europe and Africa in the Netherlands. The headquarters operated with 38 different nationalities, and is a Middle Eastern based company. There has not been much investigation into Arab, or Middle East, culture, so we realized this was a great opportunity to dig deeper into this (corporate) culture. The paper focuses on the cross cultural aspects of the cooperation between the Bahrain and the Dutch national and corporate cultures.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE COMPANY
Celtel International B.V. (the predecessor of Zain) engages in building and operating communications networks in Africa. It operates mobile telephone networks that provide connections, and voice and text messaging services for businesses, families, and individuals. The company was founded in 1998 as Mobile Systems International Cellular Investments Holdings B.V. by Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim, Chairman of Celtel and changed its name in to Celtel International B.V. in January 2004. The company is headquartered in Hoofddorp, the Netherlands. As of May 6, 2005, Celtel International B.V. became a subsidiary of Zain. Mobile Telecommunications Company (MTC) entered into a binding agreement with the shareholders of Celtel International B.V to acquire 100 percent of the issued capital of Celtel, the leading cellular operator in Sub-Saharan Africa. The offer by MTC’s was to purchase 85 percent of the issued and outstanding shares immediately for US$ 2.84 billion, with a commitment to purchase the remaining 15 percent of the shares within 2 years of the closing date for US$520 million. The other conditions were (1) for Celtel to operate as a separate...
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