King's Award for International Trade
From millions to billions: The exceptional growth of Bango
Ray Anderson and Anil Malhotra worked out how bring the giants of telecommunications and content providers together.
When you can count Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Verizon and Samsung as being among your clients, you know your company has made it.
No surprise then that Bango has won the prestigious King's Award for Enterprise for International Trade.
From an original thought in 1999 that mobile phones were going to be able to go to the internet and everybody on the planet would have access to the web, Bango's founders Ray Anderson and Anil Malhotra worked out how to provide the means to bring the giants of telecommunications and internet content providers together.
Ray explained: "Around 23 years ago there were only about 40 million mobile phones in existence and about 40 million worldwide web users.
"So, our theory was, you might end up with hundreds of millions of mobile phone users and hundreds of millions of web users, and if they came together it would be amazing.
"We quickly realised that if the internet was going to be available to mobile phone users, people with content on the internet had to be able to make it available to users and, importantly, they would need a way to monetise it," Ray said.
"Within two or three years we'd figured out a way of collecting money and it was to put charges on people's mobile phone bills.
"I think we realised we were on to something because we started to find traction with some interesting customers like Mystic Meg, The Simpsons, Manchester Utd, GQ Magazine. These were early customers, but lots and lots of content providers said yes, we'd like to reach our customers through mobile phones.
We were able to grow so quickly, doubling each year for many, many years because we focused on the US market very early, which was uncommon and gave us an early advantage as, at the time, there was a big focus on Europe”, he said.
Anil added that around 2002, Vodafone recognised that they were the missing link between mobile and the internet as they could enable content providers to charge purchases to mobile phone bills.
"Vodafone said: 'We can reach 50 million people across our European footprint, but the problem is we don't know how to offer that to content businesses, but we think you do.’
"What Bango was able to do was take the capabilities that Vodafone had which was this amazing ability to charge people on their phone bills, and offer that in a form that content providers could use across multiple network operators around the world."
Then came the arrival of the iPhone and the Android. "That was quite important because it took away the control of the device from the mobile operators and suddenly the world of apps opened up.
Anil explained that floating the company in London in 2005 had greatly assisted in raising the funding to grow the business.
"It was a great way to access capital, initially to fund our entry into the US market," he admitted.
Explaining the name of the company, Ray said: "Bango is a Japanese word that means number. My wife, who is Japanese, directed me to use numbers on a Japanese phone – because I could not understand the symbols - to get me to sites on the internet."
He added that the people of Bango love the King's Award, it's given them publicity with many customers reaching out to share their excitement and congratulations. The monarchy is huge in representing brand Britain, particularly in markets like Japan, Taiwan and the US.