In it to win it
Dennis Anthony H. Uy is the founder and CEO of Converge ICT Solutions, Inc., the first and fastest-growing end-to-end fiber internet provider in the Philippines that is getting ready to debut on the local stock exchange.
Uy’s talent and keen eye for innovation have led Converge to successfully provide quality-conscious consumers with high-speed fixed broadband internet at value for money prices and continue to cater to the demands of a huge unserved and underserved market.
Converge is an ISO-certified company in quality management system and information security management system. It was also recently named the Fastest Growing Fiber Internet Service Provider by UK’s International Finance Magazine.
In this interview, Uy talks about competing with the Goliaths in the telecommunications industry.
Question: You were managing Comclark Network, providing cable TV service in Pampanga, when you expanded into this new business. What made you decide to venture into fiber and offer it nationwide?
Answer: I decided to go into the fiber internet business because I wanted to bring new technology to the Filipinos. I first localized this technology in Pampanga, and I worked with one of the major telco players in the country. I was just starting, you see, and only they had the infrastructure back then. It was in 1998 when I decided to build my own cable infrastructure that’s close to fiber.
Now we have over 35,000 kilometers of fiber network. This is as of June 30. Our network is among the most extensive in the country. We have a fiber distribution and last-mile network that covers over 200 cities and municipalities across Luzon, including Metro Manila. As of June 30, we have reached over 730,000 residential subscribers, and we are looking to expand further and service more areas nationwide.
Q: The average monthly sales of Converge ICT has soared since 2016. What caused this positive change?
A: The growth in our revenues comes primarily from our residential business. This has been the case since 2016. Our residential business subscriber base grew tenfold from 2016 to the first half of 2020. The majority of these new residential subscribers were first time users of fixed broadband. This simply shows that we have the ability to address the demand from the unserved and underserved market. We also see quite a few subscribers switching over from other operators because of the quality and affordability of our offering. Suffice it to say, Filipinos are really hungry for broadband, especially one that combines speed and low cost that a wide section of the markets can afford.
We understand that the key to our success is giving the customers what they really want. For example, we believe that we are among the first in the Philippine market to remove data caps on residential packages and among the first to introduce bandwidth add-ons for residential subscribers. We provide innovative enterprise connectivity solutions to our enterprise customers of varying sizes, industries and types. And we continue to offer thoughtfully designed broadband packages to address our customers’ needs.
Q: To have value-for-money price in a sustainable way, you need a more economical cost. How are you able to attain a lower cost?
A: Strong quality control and low-cost deployment are the keys that enable us to maintain lower cost of services for our subscribers, while maintaining an extensive and nationwide network rollout strategy at a fast pace. We have an in-house construction management company called MetroWorks, which is central to our ability to build a proprietary end-to-end fiber infrastructure. This is what makes us different from our competitors. Through MetroWorks, we retain full control and visibility over our end-to-end strategic network design and rollout planning functions. This helps us achieve our goal in having a faster and more extensive fiber rollout throughout the entire country.
Q: What is your vision for Converge ICT?
A: My vision, as is also shared and supported by our management team, is for Converge to provide high-speed fixed broadband to millions of Filipinos. There are still millions of households and businesses that are not yet connected to the internet. As a matter of fact, we are creating the infrastructure to take our network to Visayas and Mindanao, so that the whole nation can enjoy our premium broadband internet experience.
The Philippine fixed broadband market is currently at a turning point and we are in a good position to be the one that triggers the market growth for broadband internet in order to address the current unserved demand. To achieve this, we will continue to expand our coverage and deepen our presence nationwide.
Q: What are the key drivers of your growth?
A: The growth potential for Converge is huge. We have a lot of young, digitally savvy Filipinos and a thriving services industry. And yet, the internet in our country is among the slowest in the world. This is because there is so much legacy infrastructure still being used today. However, in our case, we are not constrained by legacy infrastructure or outdated service models, this keeps us more agile and adept at anticipating and addressing customer needs.
According to a study by Media Partners Asia, an independent consultancy, fixed broadband penetration in the Philippines is expected to increase rapidly from 14 percent in 2019 to 32 percent by 2025. We want to be the operator that will make this happen.
To achieve this, we have two key strategies: the first is “Go Deep,” meaning we want to deepen our penetration in existing coverage areas, and cover gaps that are still there in sublocalities. The second strategy is “Go National,” as we plan to expand first into Cebu City and subsequently other new markets and submarkets in Visayas and Mindanao.
Q: You have come a long way since your first business in video rental, and now Converge is competing not just versus the Goliaths but those with a full line of products and services in the industry. What tips can you give other Davids in terms of competing to win?
A: I would say it all starts by being passionate about what you do and knowing the purpose behind your goals. Back when I was still in college, I would sell computers that I reconfigured for my earnings. I guess I almost sold around 2,000 computer units in total. Coming from that experience, I was able to establish a name for myself and be of service to my fellow Kapampangans.
To compete with other players bigger than you are, you also have to be quick on your feet and to adapt and change with the times.
For example, as the demand for our services grows during this COVID-19 pandemic, we are ramping up our workforce to continue operations and address customer issues. We have deployed more field installers to better address application and installation needs.
In terms of technology, we have launched the first version of our Converge Xperience App so subscribers can perform self-help troubleshooting solutions more quickly and conveniently, and we’re continuing to refine and improve its functionality. We have expanded our hotline capacity so our service centers can accommodate more calls. Our website’s customer support page has also been enhanced so customers can raise support service tickets for their technical concerns and general inquiries.
In terms of internet accessibility and connectivity, the Philippines has unfortunately fallen behind other countries. With the services that we offer at Converge ICT, we plan to see to it that more Filipinos will be part of the evolving digital world. —CONTRIBUTED
The author is chair and chief innovation strategist of Mansmith and Fielders Inc.
For full transcript of this interview, follow www.josiahgo.com
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