Erik Dudman Nielsen, founder and chief executive officer of Virgin Mobile Middle East and Africa, has been driving innovation across the region since the company launched in 2006.
Dudman Nielsen has been at the forefront of leading the Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) as it extends its coverage with the launch into Kuwait and secured a banking licence in Saudia Arabia moving the company into the world of FinTech.
Dudman Nielsen has been leading digital innovation since the beginning and launched the region's first digital proposition under the Virgin brand which is a digital MVNO where 100 per cent of customer engagement is done digitally through an app.
“We have had a number of firsts as we actually launched the very first MVNO mobile virtual network operator in Oman back in 2009, subsequently we have launched in Saudi Arabia and I've been driving the innovation in the company and now we’ve launched the region's first digital proposition,” said Dudman Nielsen who is based in Dubai.
He describes his leadership style as someone who likes to empower his employees. “I do see a high value in having employees who are more skilled, more clever than myself. I pride myself in that I'm surrounded with employees who know more than I do. I also believe that you should promote on the basis of merits.
“I think that fits very nicely with our culture of inclusion and equality - if you're good at what you're doing, then we will support you and drive you forward.”
Dudman Nielsen highlighted the fact Virgin Mobile MEA is proud of its inclusive and equal culture where 40 per cent of the workforce are women, with 25 per cent in leadership. “Although this is equal to world averages, for the region, it’s more than double the percentages you normally see. In Saudi Arabia and Oman we have a total of 70 per cent made up of local nationals as they are pushing more for local staff,” he said.
As a man who “drives innovation” Dudman Nielsen says he admires the vision and leadership of Virgin Founder Sir Richard Branson and pointed out that by being part of a global group helped during the pandemic as they could share knowledge.
“I do see Sir Richard Branson as one of the iconic entrepreneurs who has shown the world to go ahead and do it in an environmentally friendly way, be cautious of how you do your businesses.
“I admire people who are trying to move the businesses forward and the world and by doing it in a sustainable way which is what Elon Musk is doing with Tesla and SpaceX.”
Citing what the essential traits of an effective leader, Dudman Nielsen points out they should have vision and the strategy for where the business is moving.
“I do believe that number one trait for a leader is to be able to know and show the way for where the business should move and secondly, I would say a good leader needs to be bold and try new things,” he said.
Dudman Nielsen has more than 20 years of experience in mobile telecoms in both MNO and MVNO. For the first five years, he held the position of Chief Financial Officer and was responsible for all financial activities, including local and global debt and equity fundraising. From 2011 until the middle of 2018 he worked as Chief Business Development Officer focussing on developing new business opportunities and nurturing the relationship with our JV partners across the region.
During his career, he has held many senior positions across several different countries in Europe, working with both frequency-based and MVNO-based greenfield mobile companies and traditional telecom companies offering both fixed and mobile services.
Prior to Virgin Mobile Middle East & Africa, Dudman Nielsen was Chief Executive Officer of Realtime, a global VAS provider, where he successfully managed a turnaround of the business and developed a strong growth strategy for the company in Europe, South America and the Middle East. Between 2000 and 2003, he was the Chief Financial Officer of a telco corporate venture fund.
Dudman Nielsen graduated from the University of Aarhus with a Masters degree in Economics and Business Administration in 1994. Married and living in Dubai with three children, he is an enthusiastic runner and enjoys spending time with his family and visiting new places in the region.
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