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In an exclusive with Telecom Review, Sandeep Shetty, co-founder and CEO of NorthLadder, shared how the tech startup works. The transition to 5G will entail a massive smartphone upgrade cycle globally and device trade-ins will play a significant role in helping this transition. NorthLadder offers a unique auction platform to leverage this opportunity.

Can you tell us about NorthLadder's line of business and USP?

NorthLadder is a UAE-based startup with an award winning technology platform that enables customers to sell their pre-owned devices — laptop, phone, tablet, or smartwatch for instant cash with the much needed transparency about the true value of their used devices. On the platform, we have more than 150 dealers across the UAE who participate in an auction to buy those items. This is how customers get a great price. While you sit in one corner of Dubai, dealers from all over bid for your device; and you end up selling it at the highest bid, from the convenience of your home. We provide home pick-up and drop-off services in more than 130 locations across the UAE. We also offer services like data erasure using internationally approved software.

In short, NorthLadder presents a great combination of value and convenience.

The company contributes to the formation of a circular economy. Why is this important?

There's a lot of talk globally about environmental concerns. Every company wants to focus on sustainability. In our context, electronic devices are one of the leading contributors to pollution on the planet. Every time a smartphone or a laptop goes into a landfill, it causes significant environmental damage. We help increase the lifespan of an electronic device by giving it a new lease of life in the secondary market and so contribute to the UAE’s vision of circular economy and sustainability.

This changes the objective - our focus is on how to get more devices back into the secondary market for other people to use, increasing the lifespan of the electronic device. And that's exactly what circular economy means. Instead of using a mobile phone for two years and then dumping it in a landfill, sell it on time for other people to use; and get some money in return. Win-win.

This fits in very well with the concept of circular economy since it brings back value. However, a lot of things need to fall into place for this to happen - collaboration between retailers, telecom companies, brands and most importantly, consumers. Users must have a lot more awareness of what happens to a device when they don’t sell it and if they do, then not at the right time.

In a nutshell, we're very excited with all the attention that sustainability and circular economy are getting. We think that now there will be a lot more focus on making used devices a part of the circular economy discussion, than there was in the past. 

How are you collaborating with the ICT sector and how do you plan to expand these partnerships?

We are proud to say that we have partnerships with more than 70% of all trade-in retailers in the UAE. This means that if you walk into 130+ stores in the UAE today and upgrade your phone or laptop to buy a brand new one, more than 70% of the time, that old phone or laptop is being sold on the NorthLadder platform.

Telcos are very important partnerships since they reach a wide spectrum of the population through smartphones with a data connection. In the west, telcos are the biggest players involved in device trade-ins, but in our region, we don’t see it much. Now, with good prices and operational convenience coming into play, telcos can actually play a big role in the trade-in market.

When it comes to working with telcos, being a UAE-based company offering the best prices gives us a lot of flexibility. We have the advantage of being able to customize prices and offer conveniences like home pickups and data cleanup services which wouldn't have been possible if we were based elsewhere. Having a regional team also means we can work closely with the Telcos to build customized solutions for their customers. This makes potential partnership opportunities with telcos - and what that would mean for both NorthLadder and consumers in general - a very exciting prospect.

In your opinion, how could the accelerated innovation within the telecom industry impact NorthLadder's corporate strategies?

With all the innovation that's happening in telcos, the biggest thing that I see is the migration to 5G technology. 5G will require a smartphone upgrade cycle globally. That is where our unique value proposition comes in.

Upgrading to 5G devices in the future won’t be easy for consumers because it comes at a high cost. If you think about trading in your device on time for an upgrade, you can effectively reduce the cost. If you have a one-year old device, you can reduce the cost of buying a new device by almost 70% simply by trading it in.

Hence, we believe that trade-in can play a very big role in the whole 5G transition. I think there's a lot of innovation that's possible today, now that NorthLadder will be in partnership with telecom companies.

For example, locking in a customer for a longer period of time by offering automatic upgrades every time a new iPhone or Samsung model comes in; having data cleanup services that make consumers feel comfortable selling their devices online; introducing a device leasing program which has been successful in some parts of the world so that customers can buy similar to an instalment plan, but less expensive because they get a new phone at the end of the lease period.

A lot of such innovations with proper consumer awareness can encourage people to upgrade to 5G technology, and that is one area where NorthLadder can contribute significantly to in the telecom industry.

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