Digi launches incubator, Telenor CEO says it’s all part of the plan
By Karamjit Singh June 2, 2016
- Startups seen as crucial partners to deliver localised services
- Running personalised services only way to ‘own’ customer
NO stranger to Digital News Asia (DNA) readers when he was executive vice president and head of Telenor Group’s Asia operations, Sigve Brekke (pic above) took over as president and chief executive officer (CEO) on Aug 17, 2015.
In previous conversations with DNA, Brekke had stressed the importance of Telenor embracing ‘digital’ as a matter of survival. In a 2013 DNA interview he even predicted, “In the future, mobile operators will be Internet companies.”
Fast forward to 2016 and as Telenor CEO, he has taken decisive steps to move the traditional telco even more aggressively into becoming an Internet company, although he now describes the goal as becoming an ‘Internet service provider.’
In fact, at the launch of Telenor subsidiary Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd’s accelerator, Incub8, on June 1, he declared, “Five years from now, Digi [and the entire Telenor group] will not be a telco, we will be a digital services provider.”
The shift away from wanting to be an ‘Internet company’ is because, with increasing facets of life itself going digital, all companies, as Catcha Group founder Patrick Grove predicts, will have to be Internet companies – or perish.
A very strong customer focus is central to executing this transition to a digital services provider. In past conversations with DNA, Brekke has pointed out that what Internet companies do very well is to serve their customers.
“The [telco] industry must become much more customer-focused, just like the Internet companies of today. This is what it will take to survive in this world,” he has said.
He now intends for Telenor to do likewise, leveraging on the voluminous customer data points it collects from users every day.
“Five years from now, most of what you will do is going to be digital. You will buy your SIM card online, customer service will be online, you will be subscribing to lots of digital services.
“And what Digi wants to do is to be your preferred digital services provider,” he said.
Within that five-year timeframe, Brekke said that by leveraging on its customer data, “we are running personalised services to you. You can get exactly what you want as Digi knows you so well.
“That is the only way we can own the customer,” he added.
The increasing reliance on data is what drove Telenor to invest US$360 million (RM1.495 billion) to acquire Tapad, a New York advertising technology (adtech) startup that uses big data, in February.
Acquisitions are part of the strategy in the journey Telenor is on, with its business model to change dramatically as well.
Partnering with startups is equally important as acquiring or investing in them, with Brekke appearing in Telenor video ads on Bloomberg.com talking about the importance of partnering with startups to deliver localised services to its customers.
This too is the motivation for the launch of Digi’s accelerator and now its incubator programme, Incub8, which Brekke described as necessary to partner with startups and have access to their content.
Digi Incub8, targeted at East Malaysia, is a partnership with 1337 Ventures and its Alpha Startups programme, and involves two phases.
The first phase is an idea incubator where individuals undergo a three-day workshop to learn the basics of ideating and creating business-worthy ideas.
The second phase is a startup incubator where aspiring entrepreneur teams will undergo a six-day bootcamp to validate their ideas, learn product development, business basics and go-to-market strategies.
Meanwhile, Brekke is also betting that local content is going to help Telenor win in the 13 markets it is in, especially its six Asian markets where the majority of its total 208 million customers reside.
“I am willing to bet that five years from now, the content we are talking about is not just global content but that you will demand the relevant Malaysian content and that it will not come from Silicon Valley,” he said.
Highlighting the fact that eight of the top 10 smartphone makers are from Asia, with 60% of messaging content produced from Asia as well, Brekke boldly predicted that five years from now, the Internet industry will shift from Silicon Valley and more to Asia, especially with the development of Internet hubs in this region.
“So why can’t Malaysia be one of the centres producing this content? Why can’t the next Mark Zuckerberg or the next WeChat founder be from Malaysia?” Brekke posed, throwing in a plug for Incub8 as being able to help them get there.
Coming Up: Brekke’s own ‘burning platform’
Telenor – tomorrow’s Internet company
Telenor out to avoid the ‘dumb pipe’ nightmare
Internet for All: Telenor on the essentials
Telco Deep Dive: From telco to comco
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