Week in Review: A once hot start-up fights to stay relevant

  • Green Packet adopts managed services strategy as it bets future on LTE
  • Founder CC Puan has to rally the troops amidst layoffs and keep the confidence of customers

Week in Review: A once hot start-up fights to stay relevantWHILE I was excited last week to highlight the entrepreneurial verve and risk appetite of Malaysians in the start-up space, this week I want to highlight the telco space in Malaysia and how a once sexy start-up, Green Packet, is now fighting hard to make itself relevant to customers.
 
Back in 2002-2004, I covered C.C. Puan, the founder of Green Packet, as he aimed to build a company based on the then-sexy and considered disruptive next great thing in technology, WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access).
 
A wireless communications standard designed to provide 30MB to 40MB per second of data speeds; it was touted to be the technology that was going to disrupt the business of the incumbent mobile telcos.
 
Consumers back then were disappointed with the performance of the wireless telcos who had promised great things with 3G, only to be disappointed.
 
It looked like Green Packet and Puan had timed their market entry well with a public listing in 2005, raising money from the market to fund the WiMAX rollout via the subsidiary Packet One Networks (P1).
 
But reality has hit. Taking on the big boys in any industry is never easy. As the challenger you need to be bold, aggressive, have the right product, attract smart people to buy into your vision and have enough funds to take on the big boys.
 
Technology does not sit still and what was once considered cutting edge, WiMAX, has fallen short of its own hype and promise. It could not create a robust ecosystem or a strong enough DNA (Devices, Network and Access) to pull customers into its world.
 
But entrepreneurs adapt to the market. Recognizing that the reality of WiMAX had fallen short, Green Packet has been preparing itself for the next evolution of its story and that is to take on the incumbent telcos, not with a disruptive technology, but on its own terms using a 4G technology called Long Term Evolution or LTE.
 
All the telcos in Malaysia are preparing for that, with Maxis Bhd having already launched its LTE service.
 
For Puan, part of the strategy to take on the big boys on P1's own terms is to get as lean and mean as possible. It is going to go with a managed services approach where large parts of its network management and roll-out is outsourced to a third party, in this case likely to be one of the Chinese vendors, Huawei or ZTE.
 
But this strategy comes at a cost, as Puan has had to release over 90 of his people from P1 last week. But that is the reality of being a challenger. Sometimes you have to take stock of market realities and bite the bullet and make the tough calls.
 
As Puan told me recently: "You know how hard it has been so far, going up against the big boys."
 
But his desire to be a disruptor is undiminished. He now needs to rally his team, so that they can still win the fight and he has to convince his 517,000 customers that they can continue to rely on P1 to serve their needs.
 
That is going to be his biggest battle yet.
 
Previous Installments:
 
Week in Review: Fueling the dreams of start-ups
 
Week in Review: Penang no longer just about MNCs
 
Week in Review: We’re all going to be watching Matt Chandran

Week in Review: Success begets success

Week in Review: Data centers, unsung heroes and digital economy drivers
 

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