Ratheesan Yoganathan, its 39-year-old, Sri Lankan born Brit, co-founder and CEO, flew directly from London to the Sydney Opera House to launch the over-the-top (OTT) content service to almost 200 guests.
He took the opportunity to outline where the company had come from since it was founded in 2001 - as a MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) selling low cost, pre-paid telephone cards from thousands of local stores in each country.
He was proud that it had won eight consecutive MVNO awards for Best in Class Customer Service, had nearly six million users, handled 120 million minutes of voice traffic a month, 95% of which was paid calls, and its business was based on retailers and online sales – in multiple countries covering more than 43 languages. “Lebara has become the trusted universal brand for migrants – our vision is to have 1 billion customers by 2020,” he said.
In 2005, Lebara's founders also established the Lebara Foundation, a registered charity. More than $10 million dollars has been distributed through the charitable work of the Foundation.
Lebara also operates a remittance service where cash can be added to the pre-paid ‘card’ and transferred to other Lebara users. It quotes figures of $56 billion dollars being transferred in its top six European corridors.
Lebara is now diversifying its services – all based on the pre-paid payment system it has developed.
“Lebara is absolutely focused on the trust element. Research shows that more than 75% of our users trust us to provide other services like our money transfer service, and now OTT, and who knows – perhaps a Lebara bank in the future,” he said with a wry grin meaning ‘watch this space’.
“Serving the migrant community is at the core of everything we do. While the need to call loved ones is never far away, as new locations become home for our customers, different needs such as entertainment become more important. Lebara Play is an unrivalled service designed for an under-served community, and the launch proves that we’re delivering on our plans to disrupt the existing entertainment landscape and diversify our communications business,” he said.
Lebara Play is a multi-ethnic entertainment service bringing together free and premium, fully licensed content in multiple languages in one place, without long-term commitments.
Tamil will be the first pack available on the Lebara Play platform, followed in the near term by other global content including Telugu, Hindi and Sinhalese. Viewers in Australia will be able to watch the biggest Tamil blockbusters within weeks of release, such as hit action-comedies ‘Maari’ and ‘Vaalu’, along with their favourite TV shows including the latest series of talent competition ‘Super Singer’ (Vijay Star TV), as well as primetime soaps ‘Deiva Magal’ and ‘Vani Rani’ (Sun TV).
All Lebara Play content is 100% legal and licensed, which not only produces a consistent and high-quality user experience, but also provides a legitimate alternative to counterfeit DVDs and illegal services, and sends out a strong anti-piracy message in support of the creative industries.
HD- and SD-quality content is available for streaming on mobile, computer and tablet, or via set-top box on a TV set. Programming combines the best live TV entertainment with free and premium video on demand (VoD) content. In Europe, Lebara Play already offers access to more than 150 top-rated television channels and over 5,000 popular movie titles for Tamil, Turkish, West African, Hindi, Bengali, and Punjabi audiences. The service will continue to expand into new territories with a growing catalogue to include Romanian, Polish and North African content, offering in time 500 channels and 10,000 movies.
Aditya Thakur, CEO of Lebara Play, added, “Our Tamil pack has already proved a huge hit in Europe and Canada, and we’re sure that our new customers in Australia will be just as excited by our compelling offers. We have built relationships with some of the leading content companies worldwide, and in the coming months, we will be announcing further deals to deliver customers even more of the TV and movies they love in their own language. Lebara Play provides a huge range of content – blending the best of video on demand movies and live TV programming – with a simple and intuitive user experience, at a competitive price.”
Price and availability
- As with all Lebara products and services, Lebara Play has flexible payment options. Customers can pay online, via debit and credit card, or using Lebara vouchers. Voucher top-ups will be available at local retail outlets, payable with cash or card, in the coming months;
- Tamil subscription packages start from $19.90/month for web, tablet and smartphone.
- Subscribe today and enjoy 50% discount on your first month’s subscription;
- Prefer to watch on your TV screen? A year’s subscription priced at $249 delivers unlimited viewing of your Tamil subscription package and includes a set top box (available from selected retail stores) that can be connected to a standard TV;
- The Lebara Play app is available to download for free from Apple iTunes and Google Play for smartphones or tablets;
- Access on PC or Mac via lebara.com/play;
- Register a maximum of three devices to your Lebara Play account, and watch two simultaneously;
- Lebara Play’s platform has been developed in partnership with SPB TV, a leading global provider of end-to-end solutions for content services (see notes).
Australia's multi-cultural mix provides fertile ground for Lebara’s migrant oriented services. By all appearances, it is well respected, does a great job, and has hit on the right distribution mechanism and back of house technology to add more strings to its bow. Its pre-payment system is simple and effective and has helped monetise its services.