BEMO­BILE UP­GRADE HAS BE­GUN, SAYS NEW CEO

Business Advantage Papua New Guinea - - Infrastructure & Transport -

With money fi­nally in the bank and an ex­pe­ri­enced hand at the helm, are the for­tunes of PNG’S trou­bled mo­bile phone com­pany Bemo­bile about to turn? Busi­ness Ad­van­tage spoke with its new CEO, Sun­dar Ra­ma­murthy, to find out. Few peo­ple know Pa­pua New Guinea’s in­for­ma­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy sec­tor bet­ter than Sun­dar Ra­ma­murthy. As founder of Data Nets in the early 1990s, he helped pi­o­neer the devel­op­ment of in­for­ma­tion and telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy ser­vices in PNG be­fore sell­ing his com­pany to Dig­i­cel Group in 2010.

Big­gest chal­lenge Now, Ra­ma­murthy faces ar­guably his big­gest chal­lenge: turn­ing around Bemo­bile, which has strug­gled to com­pete with its main ri­val, Dig­i­cel PNG, since the lat­ter’s ar­rival in the coun­try back in 2007. ‘It’s a sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenge,’ agrees Ra­ma­murthy. ‘The gov­ern­ment had the op­tion of shut­ting Bemo­bile down. They chose not too. I thought: let’s try and help out and see what we can do.’ ‘The short-term pri­or­i­ties are crit­i­cal. We need to un­der­stand where the net­work is at, what prod­ucts we can sell and mar­ket and whether they work, and fi­nally our in-house ca­pa­bil­i­ties—what ef­forts we need to do in terms of re­cruit­ment and right-siz­ing.’ ‘The key things are to have a re­li­able and ro­bust net­work, good cus­tomer ser­vice, and to have an of­fer­ing that pro­vides a cred­i­ble choice to the con­sumer.’ Cash in­jec­tion The PNG Gov­ern­ment has in­vested US$85 mil­lion (K220 mil­lion) in the com­pany. With a pre­vi­ous deal in­volv­ing Hong Kong-based GEMS also fail­ing to pro­duce re­sults, many might see this as Bemo­bile’s last chance. ‘The new money goes to­wards build­ing a new net­work,’ says Ra­ma­murthy. The work is al­ready un­der way, with the first stage be­ing sta­bil­i­sa­tion of Bemo­bile’s ex­ist­ing net­works in Port Moresby and Solomon Is­lands, to be fol­lowed by ex­pan­sion. ‘We’ll need more,’ he ac­knowl­edges, sug­gest­ing op­tions are be­ing con­sid­ered for fur­ther cap­i­tal rais­ing. In the mean­time, ‘it’s enough to get started and start mak­ing an im­pact’.

Re-en­gag­ing with the mar­ket Ra­ma­murthy also flags a need for the telco to re-en­gage with both busi­ness and con­sumers, with the ex­pan­sion of 3G and 4G ser­vices and an in­creased fo­cus on data, once voice and SMS ser­vices are sta­bilised and ro­bust. ‘Mo­bile car­ri­ers th­ese days are re­ally data car­ri­ers, rather than just pro­vid­ing voice calls and SMS,’ he notes.’

Bemo­bile’s Sun­dar Ra­ma­murthy

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