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East Ham Labour MP Stephen Timms on the the global success of Lycatel, a business that started in East Ham

PUBLISHED: 14:50 15 May 2013 | UPDATED: 15:56 15 May 2013

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If you turn left on leaving East Ham station and cross Burges Road, the shop on the corner is covered in distinctive green, blue and white Lycamobile posters. Readers may recall this used to be a shop where you could join the AA, which still owns the building. Then it became a Gnanam Telecom telephone calling office and sold Vectonecalling cards.

Lycatel started here 10 years ago. Today it has 30 million customers in 20 countries, a million retail outlets, and turns over a €1billion (£840,000) per year. It was ranked No 2 in the latest Sunday Times Tech Track 100 survey of fast-growing, privately owned technology firms.

It is a remarkable east London success story, employing 4,000 people. 1,000 work at its headquarters, no longer in East Ham High Street but on the Isle of Dogs.

It is the world’s biggest mobile virtual network operator – a mobile phone company which doesn’t own its own network but rents capacity from others.

The business was started by Sri Lankan serial entrepreneur Subaskaran Allirajah. Like many other Newham residents, Mr Allirajah left Sri Lanka because of the civil war.

He successfully ran a communications business in Paris. He moved to Plashet Grove, worked at first with Vectone, and then started Lycatel – originally selling international telephone calling cards from that High Street shop – in 2003.

Lycamobile started in 2006. It has been an extraordinary success, selling low price international phone calls to Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. The company has just opened up in the USA.

Lycamobile epitomises a welcome new wave of east London entrepreneurship.

Starting in East Ham High Street just a decade ago, its now a world beater. Globalisation and new technology are creating remarkable opportunities. In our community, we need – like Lycamobile – to be taking advantage of them.


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