Pasi Koistinen is the CEO of Ncell, the telecom service provider that has been painting the town purple — a year after the telecommunications company TeliaSonera re-branded it from Mero Mobile . He spoke to THT Perspectives about achievements and plans for the future. Excerpts:
What has been the progress since Mero Mobile was re-branded to Ncell?
Mobile penetration was around 17 per cent at the time of re-branding, now the growth has been significant and stands at around 30 per cent. Compared to other developing markets, Nepal is different. You can take the personalised ring back tone as an example. It is the unique characteristic of the Nepali market. It has not gained as much popularity in any other place except here.
Mobile penetration in Nepal is still low and this is a developing market. Voice communication is an area that needs to be explored to its fullest and so there are many opportunities. The general perception has changed after re-branding, as we have also developed in terms of services, quality and variety and people have felt it.
What are your future strategies in terms of branding and brand activities?
We will continue with our brand exercises, while focusing more on branding in the region. Our focus is centred on the general or common people. People meet us, see us, make a call or send SMS and we are determined to make all these things a first class customer experience. We have also gained a good foothold and made major inroads in the corporate sector last year. We have now become a very solid corporate brand with quite a lot of corporate houses, embassies and missions using our services.
What are your future plans for this year in terms of targets?
While there are hundreds of plans that we are working on, it would not be very wise for me to speak about them so early in this competitive environment. In general terms, we are already known as the best network that is offering the best quality service. We want to continue our focus on improving the quality and increasing the coverage, as well as the capacity of the network. We are bringing new services again and are going to focus on strengthening the branding within Nepal.
How do you see the competition in the telecom sector and what are your plans to stay ahead?
Competition has become tougher and it is good because it also helps us raise the bar. But I’m very happy with the fact that people have opted for Ncell. We have a big portfolio of different kinds of products and services that is supported by a good brand and customer
satisfaction experience. All this makes not only for a good, but also a winning combination in the competition.
There are grievances about connectivity and quality of mobile phone service in Nepal. Why is the service still below the international standards?
Over the past year, Ncell has made major efforts and dramatically improved its network quality. We are continuously working on improving the connectivity and our customers have experienced this. Building mobile communication infrastructure requires sizeable
investment; therefore we are doing improvements gradually. We have a business plan and are acting according to it. However I believe, with our latest efforts, we already have very good network quality and in-network connectivity.
We have an aim of providing telecom services of international quality. But other players need to be equally competent, as the other network affects overall quality of the service. Actually there are very few complaints of quality within our service. A recent survey done by Nepal Telecom Authority has also revealed what the standards of other players in the market are, compared to us. We are in continuous talks with our industry partners in Nepal and abroad, to improve inter-network connectivity.
Ncell’s network is built in accordance with the high standards of the global mobile communication industry and our shareholder TeliaSonera, which has been a pioneer of the global telecom industry. We are now setting the international standards in Nepal.
Where do see you the industry heading towards in the future?
It seems that the major area of focus for all telecom companies will be on growth and penetration of the market. This is very normal and
penetration has grown. So we will continue this growth and the industry will continue on that path this year.
What challenges does the telecom sector face today?
The biggest challenge for everybody is the power problem. One of the issues common to everybody is the 12 hours a day power cuts and this is the biggest problem. It means that we have to provide diesel generators but that’s still not enough. We are continuously driving the green site solution concept as top priority, and as a part of action, 50 per cent of the new sites in rural parts of the country will be green sites. This means that they will work on sun-energy based electricity.
What is the feedback on the BlackBerry service? What are your plans for the future?
We were the first to offer BlackBerry solution, software and services to allow easy wireless access to email, phone, calendar, web, multi-media and other business and lifestyle applications. For BlackBerry, the result is what we desired for. Our corporate image has vastly improved, in particular when it comes to corporate clients. It has also helped us to establish our position at
a higher level.
What will be the other areas of focus in the year ahead?
The top priorities of our company have always been to maintain and upgrade on corporate responsibility, service excellence and
customer trust. We strive to be the trusted and be the first choice of customers. Our goal is to provide high quality and secure services at affordable rates that offer good value for money. We also want to be part of our customers’ success.
We also plan to expand on CSR. We are already aiding education in Nepal through our CSR project. This year we are supporting 11 schools in various regions of Nepal. As we are leading in terms of innovation, product, customer services and experience, we also want to be a benchmark in Nepal, not only in the telecommunication industry, but in general. When it comes to telecommunications, we definitely plan to be the number one in our field.