The founder of Rochdale-based internet service provider Zen Internet has vowed to chase down his big rivals BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Sky Broadband.

Richard Tang set up Zen in 1995 and has grown it into a £71m turnover business with 500 staff.

Despite having more than 100,000 customers and serving organisations all the way up to the FTSE 100, Zen still only has a 0.3 per cent market share of the UK broadband market.

Former CEO Tang said changes to the company’s structure – which have seen him do a job swap with ex-chairman Paul Stobart – mean Zen is on track to become a £100m business within three years and a £250m firm within ten.

“We’re going after the big guys and we mean it,” he said. “We’ve been a niche player for 23 years, and that’s been very successful.”

Tang spoke at a Rochdale Ambassadors event on Thursday called ‘ThisisRochdale’, which aims to get business leaders with a passion for Rochdale to promote the town.

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Zen 

Tang said he wanted Zen Internet to be part of a ‘Big Five’ alongside BT, Virgin Media, TalkTalk and Sky Broadband. He intends to use his new role as chairman to raise the profile of the brand and believes Stobart’s previous experience at Sage will be crucial.

Tang explained: “It's going to accelerate our growth. The experience that Paul’s got in growing businesses to £100m and beyond is already showing. He's got more of a sense of urgency than I have and he's absolutely right.

“Paul’s saying ‘look, guys, we have this massive opportunity, but if we are going to make the most of it we need to go faster’. He’s got the experience to get the team behind him to put the plans in place. It's happening now.”

Stobart was equally enthusiastic when speaking to BusinessCloud. “It's a very exciting plan,” he said. “We’ve got five years of substantial growth ahead of us. We have got investment this year to drive the expansion of our network and we are investing in people, jobs, and infrastructure in order to become a true challenger brand in our industry.

“We’d like to become a true challenger brand, and for us, that means trebling or quadrupling our revenue over the course of the next five to ten years.

“£250m is absolutely achievable. The market potential is enormous. There’s plenty of room for us to grow. I see no reason why we can’t expand at pace.

“I do see a few comparisons between Zen and Sage, particularly culturally. At Sage, we have an absolute passion for doing the right thing by the customer, and that is echoed absolutely at Zen.

“At Zen it’s even more inspiring because it's driven by a people first perspective. If your people are fired up and enthused that will lead to customers getting an enhanced experience which will lead inevitably to superior financial returns.”

Zen

Paul Stobart, left, with Richard Tang

Stobart praised the ongoing contribution of Tang to the business. “Richard brings inspirational, entrepreneurial zeal and passion,” he said. “It runs through him like Brighton through a stick of rock.

"He is utterly authentic, totally genuine and has such an inspiring passion for the business, and for the belief in a different way of running businesses which is founded upon people being the most important aspect to look after.

"If you look after your people right the people can achieve almost anything.”

Zen

The ‘ThisisRochdale’ audience was also given an update by Steve Rumblelow, chief executive of Rochdale Council.

“Rochdale is a good place to do business because it's well-connected, it's got space to grow and, increasingly, people are recognising that,” he said.

“In Greater Manchester, we've got the most manufacturing jobs by some distance. That's something to build on, because UK plc desperately needs companies which make stuff and make it well, and - increasingly - export it.” 

  • ‘ThisisRochdale’ is a private sector initiative which brings together business leaders from across the borough to promote Rochdale as a destination for business.
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