We (myself and my team members Eric Tan and Sanjay Sharma) were expecting the usual trip to Nepal to meet with our Ncell colleagues in May but never could we have imagined that an earthquake of such magnitude would happen just before the trip. However, we discussed among ourselves and decided individually to still proceed to show support to our fellow colleagues at Ncell, bringing along some much needed tarpaulin with our extra luggage allowance. It was one of the best decision we have ever made and one that will stay with us for a long time to come. I will be lying if I say that we were not concerned for our own safety (aftershocks are still regular) ; we were constantly on guard. Collapsed homes and monuments can be seen along the streets as they were not always built structurally strong.
After the few earthquakes (3 strong ones and numerous smaller aftershocks), Kathmandu has become a tent city as people are afraid to go home, fearing their houses will collapse upon the next aftershock. Even the Ncell office building is not spared. Two of the buildings were declared structurally unsafe as there were plenty of cracks in the building and will have to be demolished. Instead many of the Ncell employees are now working out of a tent. Fortunately we were told that all the employees and their family members are safe.
The thing that struck us most was the response of the company from this disaster. Upon hearing about the disaster, TeliaSonera rapidly sent tents, water, water purification tablets, etc on its private jet. They even flew in some network experts and a company doctor (a mobile clinic was setup within the compound). We were really impressed by the crisis management effort. If we think that our usual network outages are bad, what Ncell experienced were many times worst. Somehow they still managed to restore much of their network (except some remote areas) with the limited resources. We also heard stories of TSIC’s ex-CEO, Erik Hallberg (now head of Eurasia) flying there himself with suppliers and brought along some big fresh fishes from Europe (upon the special request of Ncell employees) to have dinner together. This must have brought warmth and encouragement to many of them in such difficult times.
For the first time in my career, I am seeing the humanity side of my industry in action and it touches me. We often hear that business is about people but this is probably the first time this message feels real and personal. This make me even more proud to be part of such an organization that practice what it preach.
The rebuilding of the country will no doubt take a lot of time, effort and money. However, the Nepalese are resilient people, known for their bravery and stamina so I am sure they will bounce back. They have shown courage in the face of adversity and there are numerous stories of them risking their own lives to save others. Perhaps the least we can do individually is to offer a little help to get them back on their feet.