Sudhir Parajuli, CEO of Subisu Cablenet, was born into a family of bureaucrats. So when he aborted a nascent but promising career in the civil service to become a businessman, he ran into immediate resistance from his relatives.
Today, Subisu is one of Nepal's leading information and communications technology firms. Parajuli has no doubts about his career trajectory. "It gives me immense pleasure to have grown from a person who used to work for others to a person who is leading an organisation," he says.
Subisu provides state of the art cable TV and internet and data connectivity services across 33 districts, and employs 300 people in the Kathmandu Valley alone. The company is an out-and-out industry leader, having pioneered the use of several key technologies in Nepal, and even counts a few competitors among its clients.
The path to its current perch at the top, however, hasn't been smooth. On the eve of the new millennium, Nepalis were still using dial-up modems to connect to the internet. Parajuli and his peers reckoned that cable connections, which had already proven their worth in the west, would serve internet users better. Together, they started Subisu Cablenet in 2000 with the intention of introducing and marketing this technology in Nepal.
National regulatory bodies thought differently and didn't allow Subisu to operate cable internet in the country. Unfazed, and convinced of the technology's virtues, Parajuli and his team decided to set up a cable TV service instead, hoping to build the infrastructure for a cable internet service some time in the future.
The plan worked. In 2004, Subisu received a license to operate cable internet and in 2006, data connectivity services as well.
Subisu has done so well partly because it has been very quick to identify and resolve service problems. It has a record-setting Mean Time to Restore (MTR), a measure of the time taken to respond to service disruptions, within the industry.
"We study service problems our customers face very closely to ensure they don't happen again. Fast service delivery and response to problems really sets us apart," Parajuli says.
Underwriting Subisu's commercial success is a commitment to help ordinary people take advantage of the latest in information and communications technologies. Parajuli laments the backwardness of the Nepali countryside, where many don't have access to electricity, but believes that technology firms are well-positioned to help.
"Sixty per cent of Nepal doesn't have electricity, forget about internet. However, being in the field of ICT services,
we have tried our level best to change this."
Subisu has worked with NGOs to connect remote villages to cable TV and internet, and distributed laptops to needy educational institutions free of cost. It has also helped doctors and teachers deliver diagnoses and lectures remotely, through internet and telephones.
These inroads into the countryside aren't just humanitarian gestures, but part and parcel of Subisu's commercial strategy. Subisu plans to reach at least all district headquarters in the future, and is fully prepared to invest in the necessary technological innovations to negotiate Nepal's rugged and varied landscape. Subisu will also introduce digital television services in the near future.
A fully connected Nepal, of course, remains a distant prospect. But with bright stars like Subisu and Parajuli leading the way, we're getting there.
Suvayu Dev Pant