Stepping up Jamaica's telecoms pace with Digicel

Stepping up Jamaica's telecoms pace with Digicel

Soviet-born 'Jabbor' Kayumov already at home, commits to building local brand


Sunday, February 14, 2021

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HE was born in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, specifically that mountainous section called Tajikstan, Central Asia, which became an independent nation in September 1991, a mere three months after the USSR was dissolved.

Abdujabor Kayumov, now 40, has travelled far and wide on a journey to realise his dream of being a top international manager. And that he is now, as the new chief executive officer of Digicel Jamaica, one of Jamaica's top 10 high-profile companies of which he has been at the helm for just over a month.

“Jabbor”, as he prefers to be referred, in his down-to-earth, casual style, comes to Jamaica from a two-and-a-half-year assignment for Digicel in Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago, where he led a company performance record in 2019 to head an organisation that is close to Jamaicans in several respects, being market leader in cellular phone sales and usage, and which will officially mark 20 years of existence in April.

Schooled up to the university level in his native land, Jabbor decided on laying the foundation for the realisation of his dream to succeed externally, with early dabbling in working with an NGO, banking, and by age 24 he was into the telecommunications industry as a marketing officer, soon moving up the job line and ladder to the point of chief marketing officer and CEO in a handful of organisations.

Surviving the bloody conflicts of a brutal civil war, the toughness that he went through as the oldest of three boys in the middle class household prepared him for the potential tough challenges that life had to offer.

“The country I was born in made me who I am so I can't neglect it,” he told the Jamaica Observer last week. “I have seen all parts of this life and I know that sometimes you have to take tough decisions, and being afraid to take those tough decisions will compromise you as a leader.

“It's kind of being the last defender on the pitch. If you are not going to stop the opponent, or not going to do what you are supposed to do, then the other team will score the goal. Being the oldest son of my parents, because of the life I lead in carrying that great responsibility you have to make sure that you take those decisions,” Jabbor stated.

When he arrived in Jamaica to take up his assignment late last year, and locked himself away for the designated quarantine period, lots of thoughts surfaced, among them that he would have to operate 14-hour days on the job, not just because he loves what he does, but because he had a commitment to deliver to his customers, staff, shareholders, management, and himself.

Now settled into what he is about, the 14-hour days are still relevant but not consistent over five days. In any event, he readily admitted that at least one day of the seven-day period is reserved for himself to “recharge”.

Time too, is in the making for him to get back on track with playing sport — golf, football, basketball, and even cricket, the latter he learned while in Trinidad & Tobago though that sport gave way in prominence to football when he played as a striker, displaying the big number 10 on a winning aggregation in an eight-team competition. Being top scorer, including two goals in one match, was the cream on the cupcake for the “Russian guy”, as he was often referred.

His family has now grown accustomed to the travelling, afterall they have been on the road for the last decade.

“They have been expats for 10 years and they are used to it. I have two daughters and a son, aged 14, 11, and three years old. They are happy, my wife is happy, because Jamaica is such a beautiful place.

“This is that fastest orientation experience I've had because I got here over a month ago and last weekend, when I had some friends over by me, I truly realise how happy the wife was and the kids were with the school here, which makes them welcome,” the Digicel top man said.

The relationship with his mom and dad remains solid and intact, even with the obstacle of being thousands of miles away.

“I have a very tight family relationship with my parents. I cannot start my day without calling my mom and dad and living so far away from them. Making that call while in traffic for 30 minutes makes me feel great. They too feel good because they speak to their son and they can have a good day thinking that he is healthy.”

In his adventurous style, Jabbor has been travelling to certain picturesque Jamaican places, including Portland, arguably Jamaica's most naturally beautiful parish.

“When I went to Portland my family wasn't here, so I drove myself. Many people saw me as crazy, and I didn't drive the highway, I drove another way, so it was a bit [of a] challenging road. It took me about three or four hours to get to Portland, and I ended up at Boston Beach. I went to see what the place looked like and I ended up meeting this young guy and he invited me somewhere. At one time I was thinking 'Jabbor, you are crazy. You have no idea where you are, with a total stranger.' But it was nice. People here are very, very friendly.”

Don't even think that the Jamaican food is a problem to him, as his love for pepper and curry makes digestion easier. The fact that his wife “cooks and bakes very well” is also a plus.

“Many products you buy in the grocery store [have], 'Made in Jamaica' on them which is very impressive. I can see how strong the Made in Jamaica brand is and how Jamaicans are patriotic, dedicated nation, which is very impressive.

“I consider Digicel as Jamaican because it was born here. I want Jamaica to keep telling this great story about Digicel because without Jamaica it wouldn't be possible. Without Digicel, Jamaica would not be complete.”

See related story:

Digicel Jamaica CEO inspired by company owner O'Brien

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