NIGEL EASTWOOD INTERVIEW: GROWING YOUR BUSINESS ABROAD

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Nigel Eastwood is CEO of New Call Telecom, one of the fastest-growing residential telecommunications company in Britain.

Established by Nigel in 2010 through a management buyout, the company is now expanding in Asia and the Middle East. Most recently, it acquired India-based instant messenger Nimbuzz, the fifth largest instant messaging platform in the world. With more than 200m users across the globe, it is in the process of rolling out a number of apps as well as free public Wi-Fi in the country. New Call also recently launched Fuel Broadband in the UK.

We spoke to Nigel about New Call Telecom’s overseas expansion, and asked him for his tips for British companies that want to make money abroad.

Tell about yourself, and how you came to set up New Call Telecom?
I’m from East Lancashire and still live there with my wife and family, but I spend the majority of my time at New Call Telecom’s HQ in London. In 2008, I was headhunted into PTGi, the third-largest international voice carrier in the world. I was lucky to join the firm when I did because two years later, the business wanted to sell its UK operations. I saw a superb opportunity to buy the business, but, unfortunately, for legal reasons it couldn’t be a management buy-out – if I wanted to buy the company, I’d need to leave the business first. I did just that. After a lot of nail-biting, the sale was completed in 2010, and New Call was born.

How did New Call get its first foothold in India?
While at PTGi, I’d spent two years setting up a large office there in India. So when we completed the management buyout in 2010, we inherited a number of dedicated staff in Mumbai.

You’ve expanded primary in India so far, why there?
Our expansion in India has been driven by mid-tier acquisition of telecoms companies, most recently Nimbuzz. That’s where we’re concentrating right now. There’s a lot of potential for British tech and telecoms firms to grow in India. A burgeoning middle class and tech-savvy population is fuelling ‘hockey-stick’ growth in the country. India is at the inflection point for the uptake of the Internet of Things: we’ve seen it in e-commerce and the uptake of smartphones. There are now over 900 million connected devices in India.

As well as this massive demand, India is a natural fit for British businesses. English is spoken widely – in fact, in some places it is the first language. Also, doing business in India is very similar to doing business in the UK: consumers share very similar wants, needs and norms, and India has a broadly equivalent regulatory framework.

You specialise in high-tech products, has that made expansion in places like India difficult?
Of course, in terms of the adoption of new technology, India can lag 5 to 10 years behind the West in certain areas. The lack of infrastructure is a big problem and something that I hope the newly-elected Modi Government will make progress on. But companies should also see it as an opportunity. It gives you this great ability to ‘turn back the clock’ and start afresh armed with the knowledge and experience acquired in more developed economies. In the UK, you have much more of a challenge because most people didn’t use the old tech in the first place.

BOE Magazine

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