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BEST OF BOTH WORLDS: THE IMPORTANCE OF BALANCING INNOVATION WITH LONG-TERM BUSINESS STRATEGY

by Allirajah Subaskaran , Lyca Group’s Chairman

The Lyca Group has evolved significantly since its founding eleven years ago. Lycatel,which subsequently led to Lyca mobile,was founded as a provider of international calling cards to the UK’s and the European burgeoning migrant community. The company now offers a vast range of services across the technology, media and telecoms, financial services, travel and transport, healthcare, and entertainment sectors, servicing over 15 million customers across 23 countries worldwide. So, what has been the key to this rapid growth and success?

The answer lies in the firm’s strategy, which is defined by a combination of innovation and flexibility, driven by the long-term objective to become the pre-eminent provider of services that allow international customers to connect with their communities around the world, at the lowest possible price. This approach has enabled the Group to stay nimble, effectively leveraging the unprecedented scale of movement of people that has taken place across the world over the last decade, whilst staying true to what it set out to achieve on founding in 2006.

My own beginnings are humble. Having fled to France from Sri Lanka to escape the civil war at a young age, I have first-hand experience of the challenges faced by migrants. After arriving in Paris, my family set up a restaurant, then a grocery shop. At the grocers, we sold calling cards to people who wanted to phone abroad. This quickly became one of our best-selling products, largely due to our strong base of migrant customers. When our distributor stopped supplying, we saw that our customers were struggling to find calling cards and so we decided to take up the distribution rights ourselves, selling the cards to other shops as well as through our own.

This venture proved very successful, and I moved to London with my brother to develop the business. In 2002 I set up my own calling card firm, Lycatel, named after my sister Lekha. With the deregulation taking place within the telecommunications sector in the early 2000s, we founded Lycamobile in 2006 to bring the benefits of the calling card to a mobile platform, ensuring that our customers were able to keep in contact with their loved ones more conveniently by making low-cost international calls on their mobiles.

Whilst the business was founded with the core objective of connecting friends and families from around the world at the lowest possible price, my experiences moving across the world instilled in my mind the importance of being able to quickly and purposefully adapt to new situations, markets and contexts on both a personal and a professional level.

Over the years,we have established this ethos across the Lyca Group, transforming these survival tactics into a set of core skills which have become the foundation of the firm’s success and the key to running a successful, growing global company. Agility, flexibility and a relationship-driven mindset are attributes that we drive every employee to develop. These skills enable us to adapt our products and services across borders, and build strong and constructive relationships with partners across our operating regions.

A crucial part of our success can be attributed to ensuring that we are never static and that our long-term strategy is continuously reviewed. In order to compete effectively in an increasingly saturated market, Lyca has needed to ensure that it can be nimble, reacting quickly to changing technology, customer needs and the developing economic and political climate.

Lyca has always been committed to staying ahead of the game, and to do so we have worked dynamically to push forward, seizing opportunities and moving into new areas and markets, adapting to the external environment accordingly.  Not only have we been able to capitalise on this approach, but we’ve ensured we are delivering the best services to our customers, by continuing to evolve to meet their ever-changing needs.

Lyca has accomplished this in a number of ways, including extending our geographical reach to meet the needs of a constantly changing migrant demographic. Some of our most recent launches have seen Lyca breaking into new territories to bring low-cost calling, messaging and data services to emerging markets such as Tunisia, Macedonia, South Africa and Ukraine, with plans for further expansion into a number of new countries in the coming months, including Serbia, Russia, Senegal, Turkey, Uganda and Cameroon.

However, focusing on territories such as Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia, brings their own market contexts and relative challenges. Lyca continues to tackle these through focused innovation and building meaningful relationships with partners.

In addition to Lyca’s geographical expansion, it soon became clear that it wasn’t enough for families just to be able to contact each other; they want to be able to transfer money to each other, watch the same shows, listen to the same music, and share in each other’s everyday lives.

With this in mind, the Lyca Group has evolved further to ensure it remains competitive,nimbly innovating and seizing opportunities to expand our range of services outside of the original telecommunications offering, to deliver complementary products across the technology, media, financial services, travel and transport, healthcare and entertainment sectors.

Throughout all this innovation however, Lyca has strived to stay true to the core objective of the business: making it easier for consumers to connect with their communities, at home and around the world, at the lowest possible prices. The Group would not be where it was today without its culture of innovation and having the flexibility and foresight to seize the opportunities that presented themselves. It has been this, combined with our long-term overarching strategy to connect global communities that has been the real key to the firm’s success. At Lyca, we’ve seen first-hand that when technological and ideological innovation is focused, and balanced with a core aim of improving the lives of real people, businesses can drive growth at the same time as serving their customers better.

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