Are boring telcos transforming into exciting digital businesses?
MOBILE penetration in Southeast Asia has skyrocketed over the past five years — and made quite a difference in how the region communicates and interacts with businesses.
According to figures from Google, the region has 330 million internet users who consume 3.6 hours of mobile internet every day on average and spend 140 minutes on online shopping every month.
Users in Southeast Asia also book 6 million rides through ride-hailing platforms every day, fuelling the industry to grow four-fold since 2015 and putting it in line to reach US$20.1 billion by 2025. Truth be told, it’s the potential of Southeast Asia’s internet economy that has helped startups in the region raise more than US$12 billion since 2016.
All of that, the whole internet economy in the region, is built on the strong shoulders of Communications Service Providers (CSPs) like Celcom Axiata and Digi — and its time they play a bigger role in the digital world we live in.
Instead of simply providing the infrastructure for companies to thrive, they’re aspiring to create ecosystems that provide customers with everything they need.
Whether it is entertainment, travel, or simply booking a cab, CSPs hope to move beyond facilitating connections between businesses and companies.
“Celcom embarked on a three-year digital transformation journey at the start of this year. Over the next two years, we expect to see massive leaps forward in terms of digitizing the business — leveraging exciting technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence, and machine learning,” Celcom’s Head of IT Digital Enablement Colin Anand Isitor told Tech Wire Asia at the Google Cloud Summit in Kuala Lumpur.
From the discussion, however, it was clear that the company was currently focused on improving the customer experience — as it should be. It’s something other competitors are emphasizing on as well.
Digi’s Head of Digital Exploration & Design Deb Tan, who spoke to Tech Wire Asia earlier this year, said that the company is going to great lengths to leverage digital to improve how customers communicate and engage with the brand.
Creating a digital ecosystem will be of no use if customers aren’t wowed by the experience, and Isitor understands this quite well. “Everything we do here on out has to be driven by the customers’ needs, wants, and expectations. That’s what’s going to drive success in the near future,” said Isitor.
At present, the company is leveraging Google’s Cloud infrastructure and technology to transform its front-end touchpoints with a view to boosting performance and optimize costs in addition to significantly improving the customer experience.
“The fact is, as a telecommunications provider, we have a lot of data — that data can be used to provide a personalized experience to our customers,” said Isitor. However, that’s not where data ceases to be useful.
Customer data, for CSPs, can provide the make or break advantage when the war for digital ecosystem partnerships begin — and Celcom is well aware of this fact.
Although the company hopes to leverage its parent company’s relationships in the region to build its ecosystem, it believes that customer data could help create new opportunities for partners that not only benefit the companies but also their customers.
“At the end of the day, CSPs are on the brink of digital disruption and the new era will demand a new business model that is shaped by customers more than businesses — and it can be different for different regions,” suggested Isitor who agreed that the next twelve to eighteen month period will be quite an exciting time for the industry, with boring telcos transforming into exciting digital businesses.
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