On one of my trips to Singapore in June 2016, I was invited to meet with a new startup in the telco space. A company called MyRepublic. MyRepublic was started in 2011 to leverage Singapore’s exciting Next Gen NBN roll-out – the first of many National Broadband Networks (NBN) happening in the Asia Pacific region. By January 2014, this startup was able to launch the world’s first 1Gbps broadband plan in Singapore under S$50. The Telco industry is a well-established industry with many large players, with billions of dollars in revenue, so I was interested in knowing how a startup could possibly disrupt the telco industry and be the first to launch such a service. This disruption was on the scale of an Uber in the transportation business or Airbnb in the hospitality business! Startups like MyRepublic have become known as Telcotechs, a term that is being increasingly used in the telco industry and is similar to the use of Fintech in the financial industry to refer to technically innovative companies that are disrupting their industries.
In an interview in 2014, their founder Malcolm Rodrigues attributed MyRepublic’s strong growth to what he called the “thin operator model” “We think we’ve re-engineered the economics of a telco,” said Rodrigues. “Today we bill and invoice about 25,000 customers. All the invoicing and the CRM system are in the cloud. When I was at a telco before MyRepublic, we spent about $300 million dollars on an IT platform. [At MyRepublic] we built a cloud-based CRM and accounting system using the best stuff available and stitching it together through open APIs. I’d say we spent about 80,000 bucks to do that, and our running cost is around 3,000 dollars a month”.
When asked how he expected to make money with such a small number of customers, he said “The telecom is a beautiful business. It’s all recurring revenue. When you’re selling software packages, you have to find new customers every month.” By offering a utility, customers tend to switch providers only after a long period of time. At that time in 2014, MyRepublic occupied about 1% of the internet service provider market with hopes to reaching 5% in a few years. While that is a small slice of the pie, they were able to triple their revenue that year from S$5M to S$15M. Rodrigues also believes that traditional telcos create a walled garden to discourage users from going to other services like WhatsApp or Skype. There is a new way of life that is coming that will require telcos to work closely with the content providers. He believes that MyRepublic must be committed to user experience and maintain credibility in the eyes of the public.
When I met with MyRepublic in 2016 they were providing ultra-fast internet service to over 30,000 homes and businesses in Singapore. Since they were cloud native they were not interested in Hitachi’s IT infrastructure solutions. Their interest was in the trends and directions in the industry and Hitachi’s IoT initiatives. Last week I participated in Hitachi Vantara’s Southeast Asia CIO and Partner conference where we were fortunate to have Eugene Yeo, Group CIO, for MyRepublic, as a main speaker. He provided an update and shared his experiences on driving business agility and transformation across their footprint which now includes Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia, with plans for Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand. Today, MyRepublic has a customer base reaching over 200,000 households.
This summer MyRepublic moved into the telco space as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) by partnering with StarHub in Singapore and Tata Communications across Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and Indonesia. An MVNO is a wireless communications services provider that does not own the wireless network infrastructure over which it provides services to its customers. It obtains bulk access to network services at wholesale rates, then sets retail prices independently, using its own customer services, and billing support systems. This enables MyRepublic’s telcotech platform expansion into home broadband and mobile services without having to make any capital investment into its own mobile network infrastructure or services management. MyRepublic is able to provide the most competitive pricing across all its many services.
Eugene is a firm believer of using IT as a strategic tool to ensure that MyRepublic remains innovative and ahead of the competition. The tech innovations at MyRepublic include embracing the cloud, open source, and a whole slew of disruptive technologies to grow the business. They developed their own business support systems (BSS) and operations support systems (OSS) and adopted public cloud for the BSS and OSS stack. Yeo is also a staunch supporter of open source. The company has partnered with RedHat to deploy OpenStack in early 2017. With a team of 70 to 80 engineers they use open source - from open source data base, to open source libraries, and workflow engines to get to the next level faster. They can deploy to new markets in less than 60 days!
Recently, MyRepublic engaged Hitachi to help accelerate the company’s telecommunications technology strategy and enhance business operations across their customer base. They selected the Hitachi Vantara’s Pentaho Data Integration and Business Analytics platform to help it expand further into the region and to launch mobile services on top of existing broadband services. MyRepublic is using the Pentaho platform to improve productivity around data storage and operational efficiency, and to provide enterprise-grade scalability. With the Pentaho platform, MyRepublic was able to integrate and blend data from disparate sources and then create the necessary dashboards with just two software engineers. Pentaho also allows MyRepublic to easily embed dashboards within its BSS, CRM and back-office systems so that users can access insights while working within the operational systems.
Eugene Yeo said. “While we have made significant manpower savings, the bigger benefit is the robust data pipeline we’ve been able to build. Pentaho allows us to add data to this pipeline rapidly, which is important to this vision. Similar to what fintech players achieved with the financial services industry, it paves the way for us to create new data monetization models that will lead to further innovation in the industry.”
MyRepublic has plans to IPO within 24 months. We are very proud to be a partner with them and pleased to be able to support them with our products and services.