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Director of the month: Milind Kangle

Interview: Richard Dunnett

Group chief executive, Lycamobile – the international low-cost mobile operator

When your business provides low-cost international phone calls to seven million immigrant and expatriate customers in 14 countries, clear communication is as vital as a clear phone line.

It's something Lycamobile group chief executive Milind Kangle learnt the hard way when he moved to Britain from Dubai in 2000, experiencing first-hand "horrific" international call charges. With his father unwell in India, Kangle unwittingly racked up £3,000 worth of calls – on his mother-in-law's phone bill.

"I bought pre-paid calling cards instead but the line quality was so poor I couldn't hear my father on the other end," he explains. "When I telephoned customer services I was put on hold and charged."

Keen to find a solution Kangle, then working in financial services, had a chance meeting with businessman Subaskaran Allirajah, who also had calling card ambitions. Kangle helped chairman Allirajah set up his calling card firm Lycatel in 2003 and they launched Lycamobile three years later.

"The calling card business has been virtually replaced by the mobile business," he explains. "Our customers buy a pack containing a Lycamobile SIM card which they fit into their existing handset. They can top up from half-a-million outlets across Europe."

Today Lycamobile handles 20 million completed calls a day. "Every four seconds a Lycamobile customer joins a growing family," says Kangle.

The firm's call centre in London's Docklands supports more than 20 languages, from Polish to Tamil. "Our typical target customer is living in a host nation with the bulk of his or her family living back home or split across the world," says Kangle.

With such cultural and linguistic diversity among their customers, strong brand values are essential. "We have to be clear, welcoming, human and fresh," Kangle explains, pointing to examples of the company's billboard advertising where national flags are placed next to prices. "There can be no confusion in terms of pricing, it's about either one penny a minute or 2p-a-minute calls.

"We engage with various communities, sponsoring
events such as Eid in Trafalgar Square and the PowerBrands of India conference."

Many of Lycamobile's staff have been with the company
for up to nine years and Kangle emphasises the importance of the group's communication, training and career development schemes.

"It was a personal mission to create employment and I am proud that the company has grown from 20 staff to 4,000 worldwide," he says.

"People are the essence of our brand. A combination of people, process and technology makes everything successful for us. But I refuse to rest on my laurels. We have made all the right investments in growth, technology and innovation.

"We see ourselves not as a telecoms company but more of a fast-moving consumer group organisation focusing on stocking the product, buying aggressively and selling at whatever price the consumer demands."

Clearly, getting a wrong number isn't on the agenda.

My inspiration…

Which media? I tend to surf between Sky News and BBC News.
Best book I read multiple books at the same time but my favourite is The Godfather by Mario Puzo. I've read it more than 20 times – it gives you a good lesson in life and management.
How I relax I go for a 5km run three or four times a week.
Social media I'm not into social media. I have signed up for Facebook but I don't use it or Twitter.
Websites I'm not a big internet or email fan. Being in the telecoms business I'm a voice man.
Saying Colin Powell was asked the secret to his success. He answered simply, "There is no magic to your success. It is a result of persistence, perseverance and loyalty."