KARACHI: In 1997, three friends – all of them unhappy with their government jobs – decided to launch their own business and opened a small computer hardware store in Islamabad. The business, which has now become one of the fastest growing companies in Pakistan, is a strong example of country’s potential for entrepreneurial success.
NayaTel, that has a workforce of over 500 and revenues touching $10 million, was ranked second in Pakistan Fast Growth 25 – a report on Pakistan’s fastest growing companies by AllWorld Network; co-founded by Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School.
An average 81% growth in revenues between 2007 and 2009 – and a whopping 1076% revenue growth in 2009 alone – helped the company secure second place in the aforesaid list of 25 fastest growing companies in Pakistan last year.
The Islamabad-based DSL broadband service provider, according to CEO Wahaj us Siraj, is already covering 90% areas of Islamabad and business areas of Rawalpindi. It currently serves more than 10,000 customers, Siraj said, providing ultra broadband internet, modern telephone and digital video (cable TV) services to both business and home users.
NayaTel’s clientele, the CEO said, is increasing at around 30% per year.
The company, that claims to be Pakistan’s first fibre to the user (FTTU) network – 21st century architecture for delivering multiple services (Voice, Video and Data) to the customer premises – is now planning to launch its operations in Lahore and possibly in Karachi or Faisalabad within two years.
Siraj’s journey to NayaTel started in 1997 when he and his university-time friends Saad and Aqeel, came up with the idea of becoming entrepreneurs. What made them unhappy were their meagre salaries at their government jobs where under-the-table income was the only way to make quick money – something they didn’t want to do.
Therefore, they started a small business, a computer hardware store, with an investment of Rs300,000 – to raise that money, Saad sold his (Suzuki) car; Aqeel contributed Rs100,000 in cash and Siraj gave his PC to the company.
In 1999, Siraj said, they acquired a small satellite internet company for Rs2 million and expanded it in 2002 by launching broadband internet service and named it Micronet – which NayaTel is a sister concern of.
In 2004, came a turning moment when the three brain stormed with the idea of a modern telecom network to cater to the growing demand, and bandwidth needs of the country – they launched NayaTel.
Launching NayaTel was a well-thought plan, as the trio envisioned which direction the industry was moving.
Currently, Pakistan has about 1.4 million broadband users and that number is increasing every day, Siraj said. Internet users in Pakistan are estimated at around 20 million and cable TV connections at around 12 million, he added.
“With the increase in literacy and a higher percentage of younger population,” Siraj said, “internet users are also increasing thus creating an opportunity for broadband to expand.”
Talking about further expansion, Siraj said, they have a vision to become Pakistan’s largest company with a brand new optical fibre based network in next five years – something that requires huge investment.
Despite strong revenues, increasing subscribers and potential for growth; the company might find it hard to achieve its goals in the targeted time mainly because of investors concerns regarding the country.
Foreign investors are hesitant to invest their money into the business, Siraj said. Lack of security as well as corruption at different levels of the government has severely hurt the credibility of the country, he added.
Admitting the company is taking too much time to extend its network to the rest of Pakistan, Siraj said, developing state-of-the-art infrastructure to support their network requires huge funding – which is not easy to do with company’s own revenues.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 16th, 2012.