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Ian Watson: delivering Cambodia’s 5G digital transformation

Cellcard’s CEO, Ian Watson, discusses how the telecoms company is enabling a 5G-driven digitisation of Cambodia

|Aug 12|magazine5 min read
Ian Watson


Ian Watson has worked in the telecommunications sector for more than 25 years. It is a level of experience that gives him a unique insight and overview of the technologies and trends that have driven the sector. 

However, and perhaps more importantly, it has helped develop a management and leadership approach that is built around trust, respect of knowledge and skill, and a deep appreciation of the importance of culture. 

“I've been in telco for more than 25 years,” he explains. “That includes working with Orange in the UK, as well as several international roles. In terms of leadership style, for me it’s been about picking up on various things I’ve learned during that time, particularly from the peers and people I've worked for over the years.

“Practically speaking, I have a very open and laid back management style - I think that’s really important. I try to live by the old adage that ‘you're only as good as your team’ and, for that reason, I’ve worked hard to build a very close-knit management team at Cellcard.”

Elaborating on leadership, Watson explains why - particularly in a high-tech industry such as telecoms - he is absolutely confident to rely on the skill inherent in Cellcard’s workforce. “I only steer the ship,” he notes. “I think it’s really important that a leader doesn’t micromanage. To a degree, I let them get on with what they need to do, and that’s because I trust them to do it.”

Cellcard’s ambition is to fully digitalise Cambodia. It is, as Watson recounts in our article, a journey of significant length and challenge. However, aside from the significant investments in technology and infrastructure that accompanies such a transition, he points to culture as the secret weapon at the heart of the business.



We view Cellcard as moving away from the traditional mobile network operator model to being a full digital life service provide

Ian Watson | Cellcard

“One of the things that attracted me to Cambodia is the culture, it’s so rich and diverse,” he explains. “It is absolutely going to be a strong force in the global digital transformation and a leading proponent of the digital world. We, as a company, are very much part of that journey culturally too. 

“We pride ourselves on our Cambodian heritage; 99% of all our employees are Cambodian,” Watson continues. “But you can’t be digital on the outside unless you’re digital on the inside. As a result, and as part of this journey to the 5G digitalising of Cambodia, we’re having to re-engineer and reprocess virtually the entire company from the top down. And that’s not just about processes, it’s about people, having good digital change managers and a concerted effort to bring the whole company into the digital world.”