Purpose, passion, learning, and love – #ilovemywork Shafia Kazmi

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When I think of my two years at STL, I think diversity. I think diversity because throughout these two years, I’ve had the good fortune of being given a range of projects and assignments that have truly brought about a variety of learning experiences, challenges and have led me to think in new ways to solve problems. From researching different markets and industries to see the best possible opportunities for STL to helping drive inorganic growth for the company and construct key client-focussed strategies, I’ve had the opportunity to really dive into different realms and understand different aspects of business and strategy.

A project I worked on that I hold particularly close to my heart is the Policy for Digital Infrastructure project.

In simple terms, the Policy for Digital Infrastructure piece was a project to develop an end-to-end roadmap for digital/broadband rollout in India. I was initially roped in to develop an optimal business/revenue model for operating a pan-India broadband network, but my work quickly expanded to include other questions such as what level of financing would such a model require? What would the public-private aspects of such a project be, from deployment to operations? What could funding avenues be for the government? And why should the government prioritise digital infrastructure when it’s facing pressing issues in other critical sectors?

In order to bring about answers to these complex questions, I tried to think from the perspective of the customer – in this case, the government of India. Keeping in mind their stated vision of India becoming a $5Tn economy, I sought ways to link the rise of digital infrastructure to this economic growth. Any country that wishes to stay competitive – today and in the years to come – has to, of course, have a robust, top-of-the-line digital infrastructure, and the current $5Tn+ economies know this and have invested. I showcased not only how digital infrastructure could power industries, employment and entrepreneurship, but also help close gaps in India’s most critical sectors such as health, education and agriculture. An investment today would have big pay-offs tomorrow. A big eureka moment I had was when I realised that more than a third of China’s economic growth over the last decade or so had been on the back of digital infrastructure. It confirmed beyond doubt that large-scale broadband rollout was the way forward if India was to realise its stated vision.

Thinking from the government’s perspective also helped me understand the major pain-points and reservations that they had about a rollout and address their concerns accordingly.

A major challenge I encountered throughout this project was the lack of data availability. In order to counter this, I broke each problem down to its simplest form and tried to build some form of triangulation that would take me to the right conclusions.

The weekly meetings we had between the Corporate Strategy team (Gaurav Basra, Vijay Agashe) and Corporate Affairs (Swati Rangachari, Parijat Dey, Arushi Moza) were a guiding light for me throughout the project and it could never have been successful without their inputs. These meetings brought with themselves so many different perspectives and viewpoints on the same subject that I really looked forward to them every week. It was a lot to absorb but I think that’s what also made it extremely fun and exciting. The project was extremely fast-paced, which also made sure I was learning something new and interesting everyday.

There was also immense trust put in me by Gaurav and Vijay to carry forth the project, and I really appreciated the opportunity and tried to make the most of it. Watching this project mould itself and take its final form was a very proud moment for me.

I received the Star Performer award for my work in this project, which made me feel recognised for the effort I had put in. I can definitely say that I learned a ton throughout this journey. From the research and analysis I did to the people I worked and collaborated with, it will definitely be something I carry forward with me as a great learning experience and work that I’m really proud of.

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