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The genesis of webe

ORGANISATIONAL transformations are all the buzz as product cycles shorten and newly-launched services are quickly rendered uncompetitive by fast copying competitors which offer better value propositions.
webe digital Sdn Bhd, formerly known as Packet One Networks (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, has undergone such a transformation. Yet, unlike most corporate transformations, this was not led by external consultants. Instead, as webe chief executive officer CC Puan (pic below) shares, this was a grassroots-inspired transformation that now sees webe as a community-driven digital mobility service provider.
In this first of a 12-part series, Puan shares how the webe journey began and why ‘Start here. Go anywhere’ is the foundation.

The genesis of webe

Q: How did webe come about?
Puan: webe was not born in a boardroom, with high-powered brand consultants wielding their flashy PowerPoints and impressive jargon.
Instead, the genesis of webe started in the neighbourhoods and communities of urban Malaysia, where we, Packeteers, as we were called then, went to both mingle and listen to the needs, wants and aspirations of urban Malaysians.
And you know what? We all came away inspired. Because the people we met along the way were inspiring. Many of them wanted to make a difference to the country.
At the same time, we found that many also felt that as individuals, they could not do much to change things. This came across very strongly.
Q: That feeling of a single individual not being able to trigger any change is not unusual. Why did it become significant to you?
Puan: I agree, it is not an unusual feeling but this was what inspired us. This was what motivated and drove the birth of webe, which is all about the power of ‘we’ doing things together. It is about each individual’s contributions, be it his or her ideas or experiences when added together into a collective community.
The ‘be’ part of webe stands for something greater than ‘me,’ the individual. This insight of ‘we’ plus ‘be’ being greater than ‘me’ became the foundation for our brand philosophy: “Start here. Go anywhere.”
Again, this was born from talking to our fellow Malaysians on the streets and in their communities. Through webe, we intend to build a ‘crowdbacking’ platform to empower the community, to harness their spirit and aspirations.
Ultimately, we wish to unleash their full belief in themselves and each other.
If you are thinking, that’s a huge goal to achieve, you are absolutely right. But we ‘webees,’ as we identify ourselves now, absolutely want to have this higher sense of purpose as part of our brand identity. We too want to be part of this community and to be the catalyst to unleash its collective power.
Q: How do you plan to be this catalyst?
Puan: Well, actions speak louder than words. Which is why when we introduced our new brand identity and purpose recently, we also introduced a number of projects from our fledgling webe community platform to signify action, in making a change through the power of ‘we.’
We urge you to follow the progress of those activities and gauge the impact they have.
The impact, multiplied many times over, is the impact that webe hopes to have in the Malaysian mobility service industry as a brand with community at its heart. We are not interested in being the fifth player in the market behind the three-plus-one incumbents.
Q: Positioning yourself as a brand with community at its heart and yet not being interested in being the fifth telco player sounds like a challenging market space to carve out.
Puan: It is. But you know what? We are unique as a digital mobility service provider that curates a purpose-driven movement through a strong platform to enable our community members to collaborate, co-create and empower them with the belief that their little bit, can in fact, go a long way.
All the projects were initiated by the community, not by webe. That is an important distinction I want to make because, as a brand, webe will be totally customer-focused. Borrowing a phrase from Jack Ma of Alibaba, the customer comes first to webe, then our team, and then our shareholders.
We have shared with you at the beginning that we have been inspired by Malaysians we have met, but we also fully intend to look towards our customers for inspiration.
I hope that you will stay with me in the coming weeks as I and other webees share more of the thinking behind webe and the transformation that webe as a company is making in order to be relevant to you, in order to connect with you.
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