Since its launch in May 2016, the Singapore-based mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), Circles.Life has been a determined upstart committed to shaking things up in Singapore’s telecoms industry. For a long time, there were only three operators in the island state — Singtel, Starhub and M1.
Now with Circle.Life’s relatively successful 2 year presence, it seems that consumers are opting to leave the old guards of telecomms services and hop on board the young, bold provider. Declining to give exact numbers, Rameez Ansar, co-founder of Circles.Life, shared they are now reaching 3-5% of market share and claim that 24% of Singaporeans are looking to switch to their services. In fact, 43% of their subscribers also come from referrals.
It wasn’t easy getting to this position though. Consumers doubted that digital telcos are the future or how the company could provide such incredible, low-cost data packages. Incumbents were typically offering 3-4GB data plans at much higher costs. For instance, with Circles.Life, you can receive 20GB monthly mobile data for approximately $15 with no additional hidden costs. This seemed too good to be true until consumers had a chance to try it for themselves. As Ansar puts it, “we disrupted the industry through technology to give power back to the customers.”
Targeting consumers who rely on internet-connected devices, are data savvy and use data as their main currency, the team went forth to “tap into this market segment and offer what they need the most, unlimited data.” This way consumers never have to worry about exorbitant costs when they exceed limits. Besides providing unlimited data, the young upstart prides itself for being fully digital and giving customers flexibility and control over managing their telco needs through an easy-to-use app.
Cost savings also seem to be one of the perks for going digital, with Circles.Life claiming to have saved 95% of operational costs with this model. In fact, the startup partners with one of 3 incumbent operators, M1, and leases their existing network infrastructure thus negating the need to build from scratch.
Analyst, Sachin Mittal noted in a DBS Equity Research report that with Circles.Life, M1 is seeing a growth in revenue. “We think revenue share from Circles.Life could be a big factor here. Fixed revenues rose to approx. $26.3 million (+33% YoY) due to higher fibre customer base and contributions from corporate segment projects and comprised 17% of the total service revenue,” reported Mittal.
However, while their attractive packages and over-the-top advertising campaigns attracted hordes of attention — one publicity stunt included ‘vandalizing’ subway walls, an act that’s technically illegal in Singapore — the team are finding it a challenge to stay relevant in this growing market. The need to be agile and constantly evolving is a strong one as they’re always on their toes to “identify rapid growth opportunities across the telco portfolio, including 5G, IoT, and cross-vertical partnerships, such as mPayments,” explained Ansar.
One such growth opportunity the team has identified is an expansion of their services to Indonesia. Considering the sheer penetration of mobile devices (expected to reach 47.6% in 2019) and how it’s the most popular device used to access the Internet there, this expansion made simple business sense for the Circles.Life team. Besides this expansion, Ansar shares that they’re working on opening an R&D center in Bangalore, bringing them closer to becoming a digital lifestyle platform.
Circles.Life has set a standard for innovation and bold moves, heating up the telco industry in Singapore. Now a newcomer, TPG, plans to enter the market end of 2018 and shake things up further. Circles.Life remains undeterred though. Noting that customers are more value sensitive than price sensitive, Ansar assures they “will continue to over deliver through innovation and customer first features, while remaining competitive on price.”
All of which they believe is possible because of Circles-X, a cloud system they created 5 years ago that aligns all the key systems in a nimble manner — network operations, customer service, logistics and delivery, to the consumer facing digital experience. With this system, they are also able to react quickly to customers’ behaviours and launch or change products within weeks — effectively catering to their needs swiftly.
So now by slowing chipping away at the market share in Singapore and offering data-hungry mobile users bigger, bolder plans they can customize at the click of a button, Circles.Life is ultimately doing what Netflix is doing for content-hungry users.