Daniel Kumar: The temporary CEO

On Thursday last week, Daniel Kumar, 29, took over the CEO position at Telia Norway for a day. But, did he really “take over”? Find out what happened on that unusual Thursday at Telia Company in Norway.

The idea of having a young outsider partner up with a CEO of a major company is part of the annual event "Leader for a day", organized by Norway's Young Entrepreneurship and Manpower Group in Norway. Usually, only high school or university students are picked to each follow a company leader, but Young Entrepreneurship celebrates its 20-year anniversary this time around so some of the organization ambassadors also participated.

"I can't give Daniel totally free reign,” Telia Norway CEO Abraham Foss said beforehand. “But he will know what it's like to lead a major technology company.”

Now that it’s over, Foss says it was an interesting experience to be exposed to a unswerving and driven entrepreneur who asked questions from a different angle.
“It was challenging, and very rewarding,” Foss says.

Daniel Kumar at his end, says he was thrilled to discover how open Foss was.
“I felt that I was an active part of all the meetings that day and we were able to talk freely about upcoming decisions as well as Abraham’s reflections about those decisions.”

Kumar says that he truly realized the complexity of the decision-making process, and that he was able to see that each decision affects Telia Company’s stakeholders. He also found it intriguing to see, in action, how a corporate leader must find the balance between today’s business model, or “business as usual”, and the business models of the future.

So what do you believe Telia Company could do better?
“To be honest, it is hard to say after one day. It seems like the teams and the people of Telia know where they have room for improvements. It also seems they are working on making these improvements. Now, I think you guys just need to focus and to carry your plans out.”

Something did surprise him though. He talks about the passion of Telia employees, and the deep interest in Telia that they show.

“For me as an entrepreneur, it was great to see the excitement of the employees in the different divisions and areas of Telia. I have been working with many smaller organizations than Telia, and I have found them more hierarchical than Telia,” Kumar says.

Among the things that Foss wanted to “teach by doing”, was how to tell Telia’s external media story. He let Kumar join him in three media interviews during the day, to show him how Telia’s different units work together to create the company story and different engagement platforms. Topics during the interviews ranged from Telia's employee volunteering initiative Younite, the company's lunch date concept Purple Lunch, Facebook and the experience exchange between different Telia countries.

Be honest, did Kumar get to make any real decisions?
“To be honest, not directly. However, we did not have any final decision-making meetings that day. Daniel influenced us through his questions, his views and his opinions,” Foss says. “I learned a lot from his mindset, for example when it comes to the need to seek out and examine short term opportunities. You can’t afford to think in too advanced ways in Daniel’s startup environment. Furthermore, he pointed out some advantages of being a large organization, advantages through resources and skill and so on, that we perhaps take for granted sometimes. Maybe we don’t always fully appreciate our advantages.”

Daniel Kumar says he really does believe that Telia Company should “dare”, “care” and “simplify”.

“I think it’s important that you focus on how technology can make an impact on people’s lives. I look forward to seeing how you move and handle different challenges and opportunities in the future. Technology will change and affect us in every aspect, and Telia can be an important part of that.”

“One thing’s for sure,” Kumar adds, “I will definitely join Purple Lunch, as well as be a true ambassador for Telia in the future.”

Kumar in short:
Age: 29
Lives in: Oslo
Family: Single
Work: Museai, a collaborative recorder app for musicians. It will relaunch as Jam Buddy in a couple of weeks. I am also the manager of the band Teddy and the Love Gang
Interests: Music, culture and technology.
Favorite social media or digital service: Spotify, Facebook, Instagram
In five years: Hopefully I will be changing the way people live through technology.