Ranked 8th in our Hot 100 list last year, Lebara sits at number 36 this year. But while its growth has slowed down, that’s not to say its ambitions have. The virtual mobile operator has since expanded into three new countries: Switzerland, Spain and the UK, increasing its presence to seven European countries. More than 600,000 customers now use Lebara’s service to make low-cost international calls from their mobile phones, and the company generates annual sales in excess of £55m. “Our customers are predominantly ethnic students, ex-pats and small businesses dealing with foreign suppliers or distributors,” explains CEO Yoganathan Ratheesan, who founded the company in 2001. Upon entering the UK market in October last year, Lebara launched a new pay-as-you-go SIM card, giving ethnic residents a simple, low-cost way to call or text abroad from their mobile phones. A multilingual customer support service was launched in conjunction with the SIM cards, which are available through national and independent retailers as well as online. Lebara is hoping to migrate customers from fragmented and poor-quality calling card services: “UK customers have been crying out for a reliable, low cost alternative to calling cards.” Lebara has grown annually by 99 per cent over the past four years and the company’s growth to date has been entirely self-funded. www.lebara.com
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