The unique needs of the fastest growing segment of digital users in Thailand

  • During Thailand’s lockdown prepaid mobile customers embraced digital channels.
  • But their livelihoods are affected, making affordable connectivity more critical than ever.
  • dtac is responding by making connectivity and adjacent services more accessible to all.

This month, dtac is launching discounted pharmacy vouchers, a first that is a long way from phone calls and internet access. By partnering with licensed pharmacies across Thailand, dtac can help its customers pay less for their healthcare needs and avoid fake or incorrectly prescribed drugs on the black market.

However unusual for a mobile operator, the new offer is part of a wider effort to adapt to the changing needs of prepaid customers, whose transformation accelerated during Thailand’s lockdown from March to May. To learn more, dtacblog spoke with four members of the Value Creation team, Nussaraporn Sumretphol, Sirilux Sathittaweechai, Pornruedee Boriboonphanijkit, and Mali Vithayasritada.

dtac has long been aware of prepaid customers’ need for extra support to use mobile services. Since 2004, the service Jai Dee Borrow (jai dee means good-hearted in Thai) has allowed customers to borrow credit, rather than see their service suspended. Over the next decade, Jai Dee was expanded to Jai Dee Balance Transfer, Jai Dee Emergency Call Back and Jai Dee Day Giveaway—a more affordable way to keep a number that is not in regular use.

“The jai dee idea originally came from interviewing a group of university students who said they didn’t have enough money to give their loved ones a call,” said Ms. Sathittaweechai. “With Jai Dee borrow, they can make those calls until they get a chance to refill.”

Indeed, prepaid customers average revenue is less than a fourth that of postpaid’s. And they were the most severely impacted by this year’s economic slowdown. While the average spend of postpaid customers has remained flattish, prepaid ARPU (average revenue per user) dropped by 9.1 percent year on year in the second quarter of 2020.

In 2018, Jai Dee Borrow, one of the most popular services of Jai Dee, was transformed into Jai Dee Borrow Net due to a dramatic rise in mobile data usage. And during the nationwide lockdown, dtac extended the possible borrow amount for Jai Dee Borrow and waived off transfer fees for Jai Dee Balance Transfer. As a result, the transactions on Jai Dee Balance Transfer from increased by 12 percent in just 30 days, from the end of April to May, while Jai Dee Borrow Net grew by six percent during the same period.

It is one of the many signs that prepaid customers are rapidly adopting digital channels.  Overall, data usage for dtac customers grew 44 percent from January to June 2020, as the lockdown pushed Thais towards digital channels. But that growth was particularly striking in hitherto under-represented areas and segments. Provinces grew faster than Bangkok. Residential areas outpaced business districts. And prepaid customers doubled their usage of the dtac app, a much faster growth than among postpaid users.

“Jai Dee currently offers three services on dtac app, totaling 400,000 transactions per month. Putting Jai Dee on the dtac app makes our services more user-friendly and easier to navigate. Customers are no longer forced to listen to a long recording of menu options over the phone. We hope digital will become our customers’ go-to channel for every dtac service soon,” said Ms. Boriboonphanijkit.

The team is also responding to prepaid customers’ need for helpful and affordable services by venturing beyond mobile connectivity. With Jai Dee Pharmacy, customers can get discounts from licensed pharmacies nationwide.

“The outbreak of COVID-19 has highlighted the need for healthcare. We want to help our prepaid customers who often have no health insurance, like small vendors and daily wage earners, to be able to access basic healthcare and licensed pharmacies,” said Ms. Sumretphol.

According to Ms. Boriboonphanijkit, Jai Dee is one of the main reasons prepaid customers choose to stay with dtac. Many people grew up with Jai Dee, which now covers a wide range of demographics, from older adults in rural areas to their children who go to work in cities, migrants, and university students. 

“I have been using Jai Dee since high school. When I just started working, sometimes I didn’t have enough money to top up, so I used Jai Dee Borrow to keep in touch with friends. Today, I use the services to take care of my parents,” said Ms. Vithayasritada who is a long-time dtac prepaid customer. “Tomorrow, I want to be able to do even more. The world is changing all the time, but we need to be quick at identifying and solving our customer pain points by offering the right services.”

The future after COVID-19 is uncertain, but the Jai Dee team is ideally positioned to help dtac’s customers through the crisis, offering practical solutions to the pain points in their daily lives. One thing will remain unchanged: Jai Dee is all about being kind-hearted and supportive.