SingTel refuses to be a Commodity

If you live in the U.S., you probably would rarely consider using your wireless carrier, AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon, for apps, particularly those written by them.  Now think about apps you use for social media, voice commands,

and food reviews, finding and planning local events, reading the news or apps to view and manage your photos online.  You certainly wouldn’t use those if you are in the U.S.  SingTel, whose businesses and investments serve 462M wireless subscribers around the world, intends to do just that.  They want to be at the center of their user’s lives and are making investments to do just that.  One area they are heavily investing is in mobile building blocks.

As background, SingTel operates out of Singapore and provides all telco services to that country.  They have operations or investments inAustralia (Optus), India (Bharti Airtel), Africa (Bharti Airtel), Indonesia (Telkomesel), Philippines (Globe Telecom), Thailand (Advanced Info Services), Pakistan (Warid Telecom), and Bangladesh (PBTL).  Those 462M wireless subscribers constitute either full operations or investments.  In comparison, U.S.’s AT&T has approximately 105M subscribers.  Ok, so SingTel is big, and they are on a buying and integration spree.

Here are a just few of the investments and announcements SingTel’s Group Digital L!fe  has made in the last few years:

Loop & Meet via Goba

As you can see, this flies right in the face of Facebook Events, Yelp, Groupon and Google Events and therefore a very aggressive strategy.  SingTel is attempting to buck the trend of telcos becoming just a big, fat dumb pipe that only competes on price.  Their vision is to really go after the heart and soul of the consumer, ultimately to drive a deeper connection which, if successful, substantially increases the value of SingTel.

Having used some of SingTel’s mobile apps, they feel and operate in a very high quality fashion, as well as the best apps.  One in particular is the Loop & Meet app, used by Singapore consumers to find what’s going on, where to eat, and easily invite their friends. I can easily imagine the addition of coupons, deals and loyalty programs to the app.

Loop & Meet via Goba

One of the keys to the success of SingTel’s strategy will be execution.  SingTel needs to accelerate their rollouts across their 20 countries well before brands like Facebook Events, Yelp, Groupon, and Google Events get so locked in that consumers won’t consider an alternative. To help do this, SingTel has reserved another $200M to acquire or invest in companies to accelerate this rollout.

Will this strategy be successful?  I can list many reasons as to why, specifically because SingTel knows Asian consumers better than the U.S. brands, and that counts for a lot.  Sure, it’s risky, but then again, no one ever achieves something great without taking a risk.