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Lyca dream: MVNO’s parent expands as a ‘digital player’

Paul Lipscombe
June 2, 2021

Navanit Narayan, new Lyca Group CEO, talked to Mobile News on how the firm is growing and changing

In April, Lyca Group appointed Navanit Narayan as its new CEO.

He joined the business last October from Vodafone Idea, having previously worked for Idea Cellular and Nokia Siemens Networks.

Narayan has revealed that Lyca Group wants to raise more awareness of its offerings beyond the mobile business, acting as a ‘digital player’ across areas including entertainment, travel, healthcare, media, technology, financial services, marketing and hospitality (see Mobile News, April).

But how does mobile still fit into the Lyca Group’s plans, namely its MVNO Lyca Mobile? Mobile News spoke to Narayan to find out more about the company’s plans for its mobile offering.

What is your new role and what does it cover?

Navanit Narayan: I’m chief executive for the Lyca Group. Mobile is the largest part of the business, but we have other interests as well. I look after all the businesses within the Group, including financial services, travel, entertainment and media.

How can you use your earlier experience from Vodafone at Lyca?

I think it’s the scale we can bring, and how we can scale up and replicate our success in other areas of the business – and really how we can bring the service offering to customers. If we are able to bring our businesses together and offer a complete suite of services to our customers, I think we have a far better proposition.

How has Lycamobile been able to adapt to the pandemic?

Obviously the pandemic has been difficult for us, because in most countries there’s been lockdowns where stores are closed. But in some markets, our products are available to buy through multi-brand grocery stores where our customers can pick up a SIM. It feels like we have withstood the worst of the lockdowns across our operations. We’re seeing a bit of growth in some markets such as the US, which has picked up pretty well as vaccinations have rolled out and the economy is picking up. We’ve seen a similar thing here in the UK and expect the same in Europe, but we will of course continue to be cautious with our customers in relation to the pandemic. During the pandemic we’ve been able to focus on our digital marketing, looking a lot more at analytics than ever before – and this has helped us to grow our digital offerings.

What impact has the pandemic had on the business? 

The impact has been that digital adoption for customers has been far better. I think what would have taken a few years before has happened now because of the pandemic.

What challenges have you faced during the pandemic? 

The sad part is that I’ve been here now for a full two quarters and I’ve not been able to visit our different markets, when I used to travel to at least two geographies a week prior to the pandemic. No matter how much we use digital assets to reach out and talk to the team, unless you go out and see for yourself, you won’t understand the market as much. In the pandemic, we’ve had to adapt to using technology such as Teams, but this has been a positive in that we can get people across the globe together virtually to have conversations that weren’t happening before. There has been a lot of learning on how to work in this environment.

How have your operator partners supported Lycamobile?

I think all of our MNO partners, including O2 in the UK, plus Vodafone and Telefonica in other markets, have been very supportive of us during these tough times in terms of product offering and being competitive in the marketplace.

What’s your strategy for Lycamobile’s MVNO business?  

As an MVNO business, we have realised that we were so focused on the ethnic, migrant and expat segments, and we need to go beyond that. What we’re trying to do now is working on the transformation of the business so we have a better play in the national market and create products that are relevant. We want to get ourselves out into distribution and get the brand recognised more widely. We also want to grow into new geographic markets.

When will Lycamobile launch in more countries? 

I’m expecting this year that a few more countries will come on board. We’re in the advanced stages of entering three to four, and I’m confident we’ll be in those markets this year.

Which markets are you looking to enter? 

We’re always looking to expand in Europe, but there’s a big focus on Africa and Latin America, as we’ve mostly not been in these markets. I’m hoping that we can get our first Latin American country on our list this year. The markets are there for us to get into.

How can MVNOs bring innovation to the industry? 

There are a couple of ways we can do this. One is that we can go more digital, and MVNOs that are going digital are the ones that grow because customer profiles are changing to become oriented towards this market. The second way is through our service offerings, with MVNOs having an agile set-up. We have to see how we can create offerings that mean we provide a larger suite of services; we want to give our customers more than just mobility.

Do you have plans to drive 5G in developing countries and new business segments?

We have agreements with our MNO partners that as they launch 5G, we are able to offer the technology to our customers. We’re also looking to get into the enterprise side of 5G. This is something we have not yet done, but we are looking at the opportunities this can bring.

What are Lyca Group’s targets?

We are in 23 countries as an MVNO currently and want to take this number up to 30. We recently got a national telecoms licence in Uganda and we will be investing significant money to compete against the two big players for market share; it’s a very good market because it’s growing. From there, we want to expand into other parts of Africa, which is a continent we feel has a lot of potential.

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