The government has no business doing ‘business’ in Nepal. (Nepal Telecom fiasco)

The government has no business doing ‘business’ in Nepal.

I am seriously thinking of switching from ‪Nepal‬‪ ‎Telecom‬ to an alternate. In the past 10 years, they have continuously let me down, despite my emotional attachment to Nepali owned company. Here are 3 reasons for this:

  1. Quality = Pathetic (my calls get cut, diverted, engaged randomly)
  2. Customer service = Unfriendly and unaccountable (to the point of sheer rudeness)
  3. Price = Not cheap any more (considering the amount of cut calls or low quality talks i have to put up with)

[One small context:  I cycled all the way from Kathmandu to Lumbini to highlight Lumbini and cycling and tourism in one of the hottest days of the year and I was using the internet to highlight our campaign. While Nepal Telecom’s competitor NCell had internet coverage in most of the stops we were at, Nepal Telecom had zero connectivity (even though it showed 3G connection as on ). How sad is it when you consistently over-promise and under-deliver?

A photographer friend had to send photos to various media using NCell in bhairahawa. This is embarrassing for a pioneer like Nepal Telecom to slowly go in the direction of Nepal’s other defunct government institutions (hint: Nepal airlines, Nepal Bank Limited, Nepal electricity corporation etc ).

So how do we turn around Nepal Telecom while bringing continuing innovation in the telecommunications industry in Nepal ?

  1. Sell government’s share of Nepal telecom to a Nepali private sector led consortium. Accountability to private shareholders will improve it.
  2. Consolidate all politically affiliated unions into one ‘welfare body’ that has management, employees, alumni and other stakeholders in one body. unions accountable to political parties have no place inside a business.
  3. Build “Customers as gods” policy and make sure  ‘Under-promise, Over-deliver’ remains the mantra of the institution!
  4. Use as Nepal Telecom’s mantra for service delivery.
  5. Implement ‘Hire and Fire’ and ‘no work, no pay’ policy. Nepal Telecom employees should not feel they are unaccountable government employees.

To improve Nepal Telecom we have also got to revamp the Telecom sector. This is a government’s primary role: to “check and balance”. Here are few of my ideas for the government to restructure the Telecom sector. :

  1. Empower the oversight body, Nepal telecommunication authority NTA with an independent board of managers (No political appointees) to make sure all telecommunication providers maintain quality, affordability and service.
  2. Penalize telecom providers for each cut calls and build an automatic refund system for each cut calls.
  3. Let customers track each mobile call records and internet usage records from their devices.
  4. Force telecommunication providers to share their infrastructure with other service providers for a valid fee. This ensures further competition and superior quality of service that comes with a competing market
  5. Fine any providers heavy if they resort to deceptive advertising practices. (Example: sometimes Ncell comes up with hard to understand schemes)
  6. Have a monthly ranking of all providers published in national media based on 3 criteria: Quality, Price & Customer service. Tie extra rewards for boards and management based on this index.
  7. Publicly acknowledge (and reward) best performing telecom engineers, customer service representatives and managers monthly.
  8. Direct telecom providers to collaborate with the banking sector to build secure platform and infrastructure for mobile banking.
  9. Limit Telecom providers to offer data and voice services. Have them open another company to offer other services so that there is no monopoly or unfair advantage over start-up companies.
  10. Ensure internet enabled education in the national policy and have government help bear expenses for this thus helping telecom companies have incentive to build costly next generational infrastructure in remote areas of Nepal.

I repeat, the government has no business doing business in Nepal. Either Nepal Telecom improves from today, or it goes down the drain like its other ‘government owned’ siblings !