Rajesh Joshi, a Nepali student in London, worried about big phone bills, especially at festival time. This Dasai Tihar he discovered texting. "Most family members in Nepal were pleasantly surprised," he told us. "It was cheap and fun." Rajesh's new channel of communication is www.nepalonline.com, which allows Nepalis to send text messages to Nepal.
Though international texting (called SMS) is quite common elsewhere, it is not possible to and from Nepal due to technical inadequacies at the state-run NTC. Now, the software applications company ITNTI has introduced the first ever Global SMS Gateway to Nepal.
"This service is a landmark for millions of Nepalis living around the world who will now be able to reach out to their loves ones, business contacts, friends and family instantaneously at a minimum cost," Shashank Kansal, president of the London-based ITNTI, told us.
Kansal's first client was the Nepali manager at a Pizza Hut in northern London, and since then he has been overwhelmed by the response from subscribers. Users from 36 countries registered in the first week of its launch. ITNTI is the first Nepali company to bring IT-enabled services like virtual office, e-paging and e-patra.
Registering with the web-based SMS services requires only three simple steps and then selecting a package . The SMS packages range from 50 SMS to 500 SMS for $6.25 to $50 respectively. It also has group messaging for up to 20 people (not currently available in Nepal), an unlimited address book and a year's validity. Subscribers can pay by credit card.
By bypassing NTC, ITNTI has shown that if a state-owned telecom operator does not innovate, it will be left behind. The 5,000 mobile phone users in Nepal cannot use their phones for global roaming, they cannot SMS internationally and even have to pay Rs 1 per text message.