Diva in frame for big contract as telecoms firm looks to grow

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BUSINESS-to-business telecommunications provider Diva Telecom is looking to make an acquisition as part of its growth plans, which also include recruiting new staff and re-launching one of its products.

Erica Lewis, managing director of Diva Telecom, who founded the Leeds-based company in 2006 from her home in Roundhay, said the firm is also bidding for “a very significant contract”, which would add about £350,000 to its turnover.

Bradford-born Miss Lewis has quadrupled the headcount of the company in the last two years, from two to eight staff members. For the year to the end of July 2011, turnover was at £2.4m, 40 per cent up on the previous year, and pre-tax profit was £430,000.

When Miss Lewis started Diva Telecom it was a one-woman team. She said: “It was literally a case of me having to make phone calls but I did have some customers who came with me straight away. Initially, we only sold UK inbound numbers [0800 and 0844 numbers for example] and their equivalent across the globe.”

Miss Lewis said: “Very, very early on I won a company called Conference Genie and they are now one of the UK’s leading audio conferencing companies.

“They took up the UK initially and now they offer their services all across the globe via our international numbers.”

She explained that a company with aspirations to expand its market into another country but doesn’t want to risk the cost of taking on local staff and an office might take up an international number. Miss Lewis said: “We can give them a number, and a presence in that country but we can bring those calls into the UK for them.”

After two years, Miss Lewis recruited two people and moved to a larger office at Thorpe Park in Leeds. The company then developed an SMS platform, which allows companies to send out texts to a list of contacts.

Later, the business, which is now based in Mortec Office Park, in Leeds, as the result of a move in May 2010, expanded its offering by providing more traditional services such as business lines, telephone calls, broadband, telephone systems and mobile telephones.

Miss Lewis said: “We deliberately took on an office which was much larger than we needed which will accommodate growth up to about 16-18 people.”

Diva Telecom is currently recruiting for two sales people to join the team. Miss Lewis added: “In the next three months, we will also be looking at creating an additional support role.” She added: “We’ve shown a growth of more than 30 per cent each year in terms of turnover. For the next financial year, we look to see that figure reach £3m.”

The company hopes to achieve this by means of selling additional products to the firm’s current customer base as well as bringing in additional customers, said Miss Lewis.

She added: “The other thing we are looking at doing is a re-launch of our SMS platform. It’s been redeveloped completely and utterly. We are also talking about an acquisition if we can find the right fit. We are very cash rich and the money isn’t earning anything being sat in the bank. The aim of [an acquisition] is to increase the customer base more quickly than we can by growing organically.”

Meanwhile, the international numbers side of the business is “growing disproportionately” as businesses look to expand into new markets, said Miss Lewis.

She said the company has managed to grow despite the tough economic climate “by offering a fairly unique product set”, but also as the result of excellent customer service and competitive pricing. Miss Lewis said the economic climate is a challenge, especially for the more traditional services, adding: “It just seems that people are taking much longer in the decision process.”

Another key challenge is finding the right skills set, said Miss Lewis, adding: “It’s a challenge finding sales people with the skills set to sell and who have the knowledge of telecommunications.”

Diva Telecom offers services in over 100 countries and its customer base includes both channel partners and direct clients, including American pharmaceutical companies, software companies and audio conferencing firms.

Ninety five per cent of the firm’s customers are UK based, said Miss Lewis.