Ett Sverige för alla

Swedish flagI dag är Sveriges nationaldag, så det här inlägget passar bäst att skriva på svenska. Det är också med anledning av den här artikeln som jag vill berätta en liten episod från min första termin på högstadiet.

När jag började på högstadiet var det en kille i åttan som kallade sig själv rasist. Det var första gången jag utsattes för någon form av mobbning, och jag minns att jag tyckte det var jobbigt. Därför tog jag upp det med mina lärare. Har minnen av att skolan inte var helt säker på hur man skulle agera.

Min pappa arbetade som speciallärare på högstadiet men var borta mycket under min högstadietid. En dag så kommer den här killen emot mig, och jag funderade på om han ska trycka ner mig eller bara säga något dumt. Men istället lägger han armen runt mig och frågar “Brage är din farsa, va?”

“Umm..eh…jaaa” svarar jag

“Du, då är vi kompisar.”

Och det var det. Inga mer problem. Till saken hör att pappa var den som brukade bära ut de som störde lektioner. En annan kompis som gick i samma klass som den här killen berättade:

”Din pappa var bra. Då det var någon som störde ordningen kom han förbi och hämtade den personen, och då blev det arbetsro i klassrummet.”

Jag frågade min mamma vad hon minns om den här tiden. Hon berättade att den här killen hade sagt något till mig. Nu när jag tänker efter tror jag att det var något i stil med att ”sådana här negrer vill vi inte ha på skolan”.

Vi som tycker att alla människor är lika mycket värda har ett ansvar för att aktivt sprida den synen bland våra medmänniskor.

Jag är otroligt stolt över att vara svensk, och det tycker säkert en del är löjligt. Men då får de väl tycka det.

Vill även tillägga att det var nog till och med nyttigt för mig att bli lite mobbad. Det har nog hjälpt mig att förstå den som är utsatt bättre, och kanske har jag kunnat vara till stöd för någon.

Why Emirates’ Stockholm route will be a success

Skywards GoldGrand political visions aside, the news of Emirates commencing flights from Dubai to Sweden’s capital Stockholm is the best news for Stockholm Arlanda Airport this year. Of course, this is not only good news for the airport – but good news for Sweden and the UAE too.

UAE businesses will get access to the business capital of Northern Europe, whilst Swedes will enjoy greater fare competition on travel to Asia.

Why do I believe this will work then? Already, Qatar Airways and all major European carriers fly to Stockholm. Clearly, Emirates would not be starting a route unless it made good business sense to do so.

This is how I think they thought:

  • Airport size – Arlanda is the 22nd busiest airport in Europe, with more traffic than Berlin or Dublin, for instance.
  • Many Swedish businesses are big in Asia, and often have their Middle Eastern HQ in Dubai.
  • Leisure travel – Swedes like travelling to warmer places for vacation. That around 350 000 Swedes travel every year to Thailand is certainly something Emirates will look to tap into. Also, Sweden is home to a big Iranian community.
  • The location – it will feel more like travelling in the right direction, compared to going via London, Amsterdam or Paris. At least if you’re going to Asia, that is…

Against Emirates’ case:

  • Dubai International Airport. DXB is turning into a nightmare with its long walking distances, crowded waiting areas, shops and lounges and ridiculous waiting times at passport control.
  • Qatar Airways. QA has operated flights between Stockholm and Doha for a couple of years. It is likely that the additional competition from Emirates will not be met with indifference.

The transfer of freight flights to Al Maktoum International Airport in Jebel Ali, close to the Dubai Marina, will help to ease the pressure on Dubai International Airport. Also, Emirates new exclusive A380 terminal will go some way in alleviating the strain on the main terminal building.

Going forward, it is possible that the weakest link in Dubai’s airport capacity will be the landing and take-off slot availability.

Hopefully the route will be a success, and the ties between Sweden and the UAE can be strengthened.

Further reading:

http://www.emirates.com/se/English/about/news/news_detail.aspx?article=1188007&offset=0

Getting Compounded

It feels like I am adding the ‘pound’ in compound! Living in Libya means that I cannot go out running, as I normally like to do. Subtract running from not so healthy eating habits and – voilà – added weight!

Now the trick is to start using the gym more. The lighter dumbbells weigh 3kgs each, which is a little too light for me. Next step up is 10kgs each. Which is a little too heavy!

Just have to keep going I suppose.

Not that I want this to become a food blog or anything, but invented this yesterday:

Bulghur wheat
Tomato puree
Date syrup
Harissa

Boil the bulghur and drain, add a few spoons of tomato puree, one or two teaspoons of date syrup and one teaspoon of harissa. Eat with meat.

When Eating in Libya

I have the privilege to live in Libya until June. This is a fascinating country with people that definitely deserve a better future than their past.

One of the things I enjoy the most when in a new country, is trying out the local food. Due to the security issues in Libya at the moment, I don’t think my company would be very pleased if I ventured out for evening meals in Tripoli. Particularly not as I would have to make the 30km journey by car back to the office after the meal.

Nevertheless, I am on client site in central Tripoli every day – so I do get my fair share of commuting. And my fair share of Libyan sandwiches. The lunch here is starting to become quite repetitive, and I struggle a bit to have a sandwich for lunch every day. Despite having lived more than five years in the UK, I still don’t consider a sandwich lunch.

In my home country, we eat a hot meal for lunch and dinner. And – in my humble opinion – that is how the world should be fed!

What does my Libyan dinners look like then? Well, so far I have experimented a lot with…tuna. The canned variety. Please try this at home.

Boil pasta, drain and add:
~114g of canned tuna
1 tspn of Harissa
3 tbspns of chopped olives
1 tbspn of cream cheese
Choose one: tomato puree, passata or chopped tomatoes

Then stir, reheat and serve. Preferably on a plate in your own compound!

And what to drink? May I recommend the 2013 edition of the Don Simon grape juice…

Smaklig måltid!

60 Doughnuts and Amazing Customer Service

Kidzania in the Dubai Mall
Kidzania in the Dubai Mall

A while ago when on assignment in Dubai, I joined my colleague Inge in the pursuit of acquiring 60 doughnuts (how could I possibly say no!). Inge wanted to get doughnuts to thank the colleagues whom supported her throughout the recovery from a foot injury.

Just before lunch and after some quick online research, we make our way to Dubai Mall where we hope to find a Krispy Kreme branch. When we get to the mall and ask where we can find it, we are told that Krispy Kreme closed quite some time ago.

We sit down to figure out what to do. I mention that I have this concierge service with my Amex card that I rarely use, and I suggest I call them to ask if there are any doughnut shops nearby.

I call Amex, and their representative says she will look into this and get back to me within 30 minutes. Meanwhile, Inge manages calls Dunkin’ Donuts. They say they have a shop within KidZania. So, what’s KidZania?

Apparently some kind of place that won’t let you in unless you buy a ticket….

Inge talks to the entrance staff, who are quite firm on the ticket requirement. After a while, they get hold of the duty manager – Mr Volkan. Mr Volkan is a very friendly guy, who comes out to greet us and offers to sort out the doughnuts! He has even taken pictures of the doughnuts that he shows us on his phone.

Whilst Volkan swipes through the doughnuts on his phone, Amex gets back to me. Whilst I am on the phone, Inge and Volkan go and get the doughnuts. The Amex lady tells me that there is a doughnut shop in KidZania. I confirm she is very right, and say that under normal circumstances we would have needed a ticket.

The Amex lady makes a friendly interruption and says that she has spoken to the duty manager of KidZania who have said he would be happy to let us in to get the doughnuts!

Suddenly, I understand that the request by my colleague to speak to the duty manager came as no surprise to him. Amex had already informed him about our mission.

On a personal level, this makes me happy – an employee who clearly loves her job and on this occasion went beyond her call of duty. The same could be said about the duty manager who was very accommodating.

On a professional level, it gives me hope that in an era of efficiency drives and cost cutting, there are still people who are empowered and want to deliver amazing customer service. This gives me hope that there are still businesses that understand the Moment of Truth*.

So, thank you Inge for giving me the opportunity to get this extraordinary experience on an ordinary day!

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jan_Carlzon#cite_note-50k-9

Dublining it…

Like 2012, I have started off 2013 with a few days in the Dublin office. This is the office that employs me. Although I prefer being on the road, it has been good to get to know Dublin a bit. It is a city with an interesting history (founded by the vikings), and the hotel where I stay (The Burlington) allows for nice walks both to the office and the city centre.

Fighting the Lag

What is the best jet-lag fighter? Running is my firm answer. Came to Dubai from Singapore via Colombo, and decided to go running as the first thing when I came back early morning. Now done a full day in the office, and my eyes are almost black – BUT – I have stayed awake. Without caffeine.

Very impressed with Singapore by the way. Modern and green, which are things that are important to me.

The Datalicious Future

I am on a fascinating journey with my employer at the moment. Since a couple of months back,  Nigeria  is where I am. The mobile phone plays a central part in almost every Nigerian’s life. Particularly the Lagosians.

Based on my observations to date in Lagos, I think this city is on the verge of a data explosion. However, monetising data traffic is a huge challenge for operators. In any country.

In simple terms, a mobile network consists of two parts. The Radio Access Network (RAN) and the Core Network.

It is the RAN that carries your phone calls and text messages (SMS). The RAN is hooked up to a billing system, ensuring that you get charged appropriately (that’s the theory!) for your texts and calls.

With both voice traffic (Skype) and SMS (iMessage/WhatsApp?) through the Core, instead of over the RAN, operators risk losing significant streams of revenue. To prevent revenue loss, these seem to be the moves currently on offer.

UAE: Block Skype downloads. For the ones that have Skype from other sources, block the SkypeOut (Skype to landline) feature.

Sweden: Only higher priced price plans include usage of Skype.

UK: Just have slow data networks, which inevitably limits Skype, so that using it over 3G does not work particularly well. (certainly my experience as an end-user).

It is talking that the next generation’s networks LTE/LTE Advanced (aka 4G) completely lack a radio side. It is all core. It also makes sense; core networks can now be built reliable enough to hold voice.

Should operators charge based on megabytes, or should they charge based on what you download through their network? What will acquire/retain/scare customers?

A business that can provide what customers want, will surely be in a better position than a business that is making it hard for its customers to get what they want. Customers who are not getting what they want will look elsewhere.

For me and my employer, it is no secret that higher usage is good news for us. Successful and growing telecom operators require more equipment. We sell equipment.

Getting the Basics Right

You are selling strawberries at a busy farmers’ market, and you are advertising them as ready to eat.

One of your first customers points out that the strawberries are not washed, and asks if you can provide water or wash the strawberries prior to selling them.

You acknowledge there is an issue, and promise to think about it. However, bringing running water (or running away to wash the strawberries) requires effort. So you decide against it.

The weather is warm, and suddenly the ice cream stall across the street is becoming very popular. You decide to offer complimentary ice cream to your patrons. You phone a friend, asking her to drive past the supermarket and buy ice cream for your stall.

The ice cream arrives, and you start serving up strawberries with complimentary ice cream. Still with a sandy aftertaste…

Los Angelagos

May 2012 will go down as personal high in terms of countries I have been in within a single month. Qatar, UAE, UK, Sweden, USA and Nigeria to name them all.

Right now I am in Lagos, which is Nigeria’s commercial capital. Very little happens quickly in Nigeria, but the people are warm and friendly. With my appearance, I do confuse people a lot. A Nigerian lady that sat next to me on the plane from Dubai thought I was Ethiopian. I may look Ethiopian, but I am a Sri Lankan-born Swedish business consultant from Ireland…!

I have no idea how long I will be in Nigeria. Ideally, I will be here until September, but project circumstance could mean that I leave after a couple of weeks, to then return later in the year.

No matter how long my stay here will be, I am looking forward to support our client and learn more about the country and its people. My Nigerian friend Lois from university has been generous and a great local guide. Together with her family and friends she has made it easy for me to feel at home after just three days here.

And yes, the May vacation in California was amazingly good! Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway was a dream come true.