Mobile telco upstart Circles.Life burst into the Singapore market last May with an all-digital post-paid offering. Subscribers could sign up through the company’s website, monitor their usage, and switch between different plans through a sleek mobile app. Most importantly, they could have an abundance of data without being tied to a two-year contract.
Almost a year later, the company feels good about its place in the market, having hit “100 percent of its target market.” This means that Circles.Life has achieved the traction it wanted among younger, tech-savvy audiences for whom mobile data is more important than talk time and text message quotas.
CEO Rameez Ansar says the company was the first to combine all-digital services with big mobile data offerings, so the response from a data-starved market is not surprising. Rameez doesn’t reveal any specific subscriber numbers, saying the company will talk about that “in due time.”
One of its major selling points is a system that rewards users with extra data for things like referring friends to the service, sticking with the service for enough time, and porting their number from previous carriers.
There’s even a gamification element, with the most active referrers grabbing the top spots in an online leaderboard. The telco also offers perks like free caller ID and WhatsApp usage.
For now, Circles.Life is on track to capture 4 to 6 percent of Singapore’s mobile market in the next few years. In contrast, as of May 2016 when Circles.Life launched, Singtel had a market share of 48.1 percent, StarHub 26.7 percent, and M1 25.2 percent, according to Singapore daily The Straits Times. Circles.Life’s smaller percentage reflects the niche audience it’s targeting.
Circles.Life is a virtual network that uses M1’s infrastructure to offer its services, so M1 counts its subscribers as its own.
The young telco is also looking to export its model beyond Singapore. It wants to be in three to five new countries in the next three years. At the moment, it has crystallized plans to land in Indonesia and Hong Kong by end-2017.
To head its expansion, it’s hired Donald Chan, who was previously with investors Clifford Capital and Temasek Holdings and has worked for the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
Rameez says the company will follow the same model of partnering with a local telco to reach subscribers through its infrastructure, which helps Circles.Life keep its spending in check and be more flexible in rolling out new products.
For example, in Singapore the company just launched an attractive 20GB for US$14 data offering, which is an add-on for its existing plans.
Circles.Life has crystallized plans to land in Indonesia and Hong Kong by the end of 2017.
Some features might change to suit the new markets – for example, Indonesia is more prone to prepaid usage, Donald tells Tech in Asia. However, some signature offerings like the ability to sign up and do everything online and the focus on mobile data, will carry over.
Rameez says the telco partners have been locked down for the two new markets but doesn’t reveal more.
Circles.Life has attracted external funding, although Rameez doesn’t specify how much for competitive reasons. One of its backers is First Pacific Group, a Hong Kong-based investment management and holding company that specializes in telecommunications, consumer food products, infrastructure, and natural resources.
Singapore’s telco market is about to be shaken up again soon with the arrival of Australian provider TPG, which qualified for the spot of Singapore’s fourth telco in December, snatching the prize from finalist MyRepublic.
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