Ncell has recently been awarded as the best-managed joint venture. How will this affect the performance of Ncell in the coming days?
We are a customer-centric company. Our service-oriented approach and state-of-the-art technology have won us this award. It is because of the faith our customers have shown in us, and employees’ commitment to serve the customers better. We are glad and thankful for this recognition. The award has infused more responsibility in us.
What are the recent activities being carried out by Ncell?
We are focused at creating value for our customers. We have launched services like free Wikipedia to ensure access to knowledge for our customers and free twitter that respects the right to freedom of expression. We have also launched Supernet, which enables customers using data without subscribing to a pack to enjoy price benefits as they surf more internet in our network. Our data packs, as always, aim to provide global connectivity to our customers at rates as low as 39 paisa per MB. We are focused on contributing to society through various corporate social responsibility projects like scholarships to students, Ncell App Camp and support to hospitals to enhance their capacity to serve more people.
Ncell recently organised Ncell App Camp. Could you please tell us more about it?
In simple terms, Ncell App Camp 2014 was an app development competition in which young developers and mobile enthusiasts could participate for free and win prizes by creating mobile app on agriculture, corporates, education and tourism. At the core, the programme went beyond that. It unleashed the country’s digital potential and inspire the youth to drive innovation and build mobile ecosystem. The programme also aimed to make Nepali youngsters a part of the worldwide mobile app industry. That is why the programme was run in multi-stage. This format ensures that mobile enthusiasts get an unique opportunity to acquire priceless global and local knowledge of App business, learn the skills of developing app and building business around it, then compete among themselves to stand out and win prizes.
There will be international and local experts to inspire the youth, instill the spirit of entrepreneurship in them, motivate them to think commercially and help them to turn their new app ideas into successful businesses. We believe this will contribute to promoting self-employment.
Ncell has recently launched a new data plan. Could you please tell us more about it?
NcellSuperNet is especially designed for customers preferring to use data without any pack. Under it, the more the customers use data, the cheaper the price gets. With increased usage, the customers will be able to enjoy Internet at as less as Re 1 per MB.
What are the major challenges faced by Ncell?
Nepal is a country with vibrant youth and immense potential. The country has a lot to do in terms of creating opportunities for them and satisfying their need. As a company providing crucial connectivity services, we also want to address their need from our side. But how much we succeed depends on many factors that are beyond us. When you look at the global practices of successful mobile communication markets, a number of elements are crucial: growth potential, solid and fair legal and regulatory grounds, and presence of reliable long-term investment. Bureaucratic hassles should end and the government should honour its commitment to allow foreign investors to repatriate dividend in a fair manner.
Could you please tell us the brief history of the company?
We are the first private mobile operator in Nepal, operating since 2004. Since October 2008, we are a part of TeliaSonera, a leading European telecommunication company which is among the inventors of mobile communication since the 1950s. After rebranding into Ncell in March 2010, we have grown as the largest mobile operator in the country. Over the years, we transformed mobile services in Nepal from ‘luxury’ to ‘essential services for all’, from ‘expensive’ to ‘affordable for all’ and from ‘limited availability’ to ‘available for all’. Ncell has been doing well so far, investing close to US$700 million for mobile communications infrastructure in Nepal. We are contributing to the development of the country’s economy and infrastructure. Our total direct and indirect contribution to the economy is at around USD 2 billion.
What is the market share of Ncell in Nepal?
It is over 56 percent.
What is the total number of employees in the company?
Ncell has 511 employees. Out of them, only 12 are expats.
You as the new CEO in the company for about a year, is there any difference?
As I said earlier, Ncell so far is doing well. The company is committed to provide best mobile services to the people living in Nepal. At the heart of our operations lie our commitments to deliver world-class customer experience to our customers. Ncell is also a part of the changes in the market and we need to adapt to changes in user habits, demands and competition, among others, to take the company to the next phase.
Ncell has always been active in CSR activities. So, what is Ncell’s current focus on?
As a socially responsible company, we are also heavily engaged in social projects, contributing to education, health, literature and making Nepali youngsters a part of the global mobile community. When natural disasters hit the country a few months ago, we contributed Rs 200 million to the PM Disaster Relief Fund and another Rs 1 million and bonus balance to reach out to the people in need. This is the country that created Ncell and it is the people of Nepal who are behind Ncell's success. Desperate situations caused by such disasters are the times for us to unite and show our loyalty to Nepal and the people of Nepal. Health is another area where we are contributing. On the occasion of the World Heart Day, we supported Rs 30 million to Manmohan Cardiovascular Thoracic and Transplant Center to build advanced intensive care units and TU Teaching Hospital and Manmohan to establish a separate Kidney Day Care Center. The support would increase service capacity of these institutions by three folds, enabling thousands of people to conveniently acquire critical health care within the country.
Ncell has often been criticized by customers for charging much. How does Ncell defend this?
What you are saying is not a reality. Let me give you few examples. We have a flat rate on voice which is Rs 1.99 per minute on all networks. On data, we have 39 paisa for an MB which is extremely reasonable. The only thing required is we would like the customers to be committed to the data services. Even for customers who are not eager to commit, we have Supernet: the more data you use, the lower the price goes.
What are your future plans and strategies for growth and expansion?
We plan to continue to grow. We look forward to Nepal Telecommunication Authority’s (NTA’s) response to our expansion plan. And we look forward to providing more innovative and customer-friendly services. Most importantly, we look forward to keeping the vibrant mobile atmosphere alive in Nepal.
What are the major hurdles in this field?
Telecommunications is a fast moving sector. We have international strength and local excellence to cater to the needs of the customers and drive innovation. The regulator needs to adjust to the speed of the IT sector. Power cut is another hurdle as it makes us rely on diesel as back up fuel. So, we continue to invest in solar power. Breakage of fiber, which is happening due to the lack of coordination among the government entities concerned during road expansion, is another hurdle. It seriously affects the quality of voice and data services. Ultimately, this makes the customers suffer. We feel coordination among authority can improve; bureaucracy can be ended and decisions regarding permissions could be taken much promptly.
What are Ncell’s future plans for Nepal?
We see the potential in Nepal and are willing to be a long-term investor. The regulatory and foreign investment environment should be more favourable, and policies and procedures should be more suitable and consistent to help companies like us plan for the long term.