Telecom Transformed: How Telenor's Move into Bangladesh Unlocked the Company's Future

by: Stuart L. Hart, Dana S. Gulley

Publication Date: November 20, 2018
Length: 16 pages
Product ID#: 2-794-372

Core Disciplines: Base of the Pyramid, Entrepreneurship & Innovation, International Business, Social Impact, Strategy & Management, Sustainability

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Teaching Note

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This case contains a rich description of one company’s experience in international expansion, beginning in the 1990s and continuing to the present. It focuses on how Telenor’s early experience bringing wireless telecommunications to rural villages in Bangladesh (through Grameenphone) served to fundamentally shape the corporation’s international growth strategy and business portfolio, while capitalizing on evolving technologies in the decades to follow. Telenor’s experience shows how a combination of strategic intent along with serendipitous factors at both the corporate and country levels provided the optimal conditions for Grameenphone to first incubate and then ultimately scale, becoming one of the iconic examples of a successful base of the pyramid business in the world today.

Much has been written about Grameenphone, but comparatively little attention has been paid to its corporate partner and how the experience altered the course of a global player. The rich texture of the Telenor story provides insight for global companies today with a strategic intent to pursue base of the pyramid and frontier-market development. The Telenor experience also provides important lessons in inclusive business and sustainable entrepreneurship because it is one of the few successful multinational corporations in the world today shaped in such a fundamental way by this early experience.

This case can be paired with a companion case, Iqbal Quadir on Sustainable Entrepreneurship: Getting to the Root of the Problem (WDI Publishing Case # 8-531-081), which focuses specifically on Quadir’s entrepreneurial role in the founding and establishment of Grameenphone with Telenor as a key partner.

Teaching Objectives

After reading and discussing the material, students should:

  • Identify the key elements facilitating the incubation and scaling of an innovative new business model focused on the base of the income pyramid.
  • Understand how early experience in one frontier market can be used to shape global expansion strategy, with an emphasis on inclusion and sustainability.
  • Understand the difference between expansion into existing, developed markets versus frontier/emerging markets, and the “native capability” needed to succeed with the latter.
  • Apply the insights and learnings from the Telenor experience to today’s companies seeking to create new market opportunities at the base of the pyramid.