Government-run Nepal Telecom topped the list of largest taxpayers, in terms of both income and value added taxes, in the fiscal year 2011-12. The partially privatized and Nepse-listed telecom service provider contributed some Rs 9 billion to the government coffer that year. The government recently picked Anoop Ranjan Bhattarai, who was previously serving as Director at the company’s Wireless Telephone Directorate, to lead the company. Bhattarai is regarded as one of the few smart techies in Nepal with considerable knowledge of technological aspect of the telecom industry. Soon after he assumed the new position, he spoke to Siromani Dhungana of New Business Age about his plans for leading the company. Excerpt:
What does your appointment as MD of NTC promises to its consumers and stakeholders?
My appointment as the Managing Director is a breakthrough to a 3-month-long deadlock in finalizing the organizational leadership. This appointment is the change for betterment; betterment for the organization, betterment for the staffs working here, and most importantly betterment for all our stakeholders. My tenure as MD of the organization will concentrate in providing world class advanced and consumer friendly telecom services.
Some officials and even trade union representatives often talk about making reforms in the company. What areas are you planning to reform?
My key areas for reform will center on improving company’s work culture, increasing its efficiency, ensuring timely execution of projects and improving service delivery. If we pay appropriate attention to these sectors, our performance will improve and thereby enable use to remain competent in the free market economy.
Quality of service has often been controversial when we talk about Nepal Telecom. Even the regulator blames NT for flouting quality indicators. You are perceived as a person with guts to reform the company. How is your appointment going to change anything that Nepali consumers can feel the benefit?
Of course, the quality of service in urban areas is going to be improved and these changes can be perceived within one month. After upgrading networks in urban areas, we will focus on improving quality of services in the rural areas. I assure our customers across the country that in a few months time there will be visible improvements in the quality of our services.
Do you think you will be able to overcome political hurdles that might be obstructing the performance of Nepal Telecom?
As a government owned company, all stakeholders including the political system, definitely wants to see it growing and increasing its contribution to national development. I do not think there will be any political hurdles that will obstruct growth of the company. All we have to do is ensure that all initiatives are conducted in transparent and reliable manner.
How do you tackle problems created by Public Procurement Act?
At present, NT has to follow Public Procurement Act. Consultation process is going on with the Public Procurement Monitoring Office (PPMO) so as to refine or redefine the directive. I am confident that the ongoing as well as additional consultation processes will help NT move forward more efficiently.
News reports during last year claimed that NT provides unnecessary perks and facilities to officials at the Ministry of Information and Communication. What will you do to this end?
I am not aware of such services being offered to the ministry or its officials. And the ministry has also not requested for the same from the company.
Successive leadership at NT has been failing to materialize the plan of bringing strategic partner to increase competency of the company. Can we expect anything tangible from you?
The process for introducing strategic partner is gaining momentum. Within few weeks, NT will initiate the process. I am hopeful fresh initiatives will be successful in bringing strategic partner in the company.
How do you see the challenges from private operators at the moment? Will you bring specific plans to cope with those challenges?
We offer diverse service and have a dominant presence throughout the nation. Our competitors are lagging far behind compared to us, in general. However, we have experienced competition in certain business aspects of telecommunication services. This has opened up new opportunities for NT to grow from within. We should accept challenges and take it as an opportunity to do even better in the future.
What new services can we expect from you?
We have seen a huge demand for reliable and affordable data service in coming days. So we are mainly focusing on the same. In this fiscal year we will launch WiFi and FTTH (Fiber to the Home) services. Our expert team is also exploring the areas of service expansion. Naturally all our existing as well as prospective consumers demand reliable, diversified and advanced services from Nepal Telecom and as a service provider we are all working and focusing more on the same to make tangible improvement in the options and quality we offer. We also have plan to introduce new services like WiFi, countrywide 3G services through GSM and CDMA technologies and also have plans to provide our own Social Networking Service very soon.
What do you think the major challenges for the company are?
Our major challenges, as of now, are:
• Bridge the digital divide
• Modernizing customer service
• Proceedings to introduce an international strategic partner
• Boost employees’ morale and improve work culture
These are some major challenges. The list may go even longer. We have to come out with appropriate solution for all challenges. I will put my effort to overcome these challenges during my tenure.
Till the mid-80s, Nepal was considered as a country having the best telecom services in the region. What happened since then?
NT has already launched 4G WIMAX service. We were the first to launch 3G services in the SAARC region. So technically speaking, we are still in leading position within the region and we will not let our achievements to go down.
You have also expertise in modern technology. Please share your experience and plan to expand new technology including LTE?
We have applied for frequency spectrum for LTE and once we get it, we will start deploying LTE in all major cities. Within 2015, we aim to provide LTE services throughout the nation.