Even to dtac’s insiders, the company’s Strategy and Innovation Division can be something of an enigma. A multinational team comprising of Thai and 5 foreigners from Bangladesh, Myanmar, India, Germany and France with a large range of qualifications from ex- strategy consultants to sales, product or IT experts, its 30 people are spread across five teams. They all share a longer view on the telecommunications industry, be it when shaping the organization’s top-level strategy for 2020-21, discovering the hot new startups of tomorrow, or building the latest IoT solutions. We sat down with Thibaut Girard, who heads Strategy and Innovation at dtac, for a behind-the-scenes peek at the future of dtac in each of his teams.
“Our role is to deliver on initiatives that require a lot of coordination across all of dtac and a longer timeframe to develop them,” said Mr. Girard. “Particularly if those projects don’t exactly fit within existing structures and need to be built up from scratch.”
Out of the five teams he leads, one is specifically dedicated to strategy. They work with colleagues from across the entire organization to shape dtac’s future ambitions, align network, sales, marketing strategies and ensure they are realized.
“dtac is now in a very different position from last year,” said Mr. Girard. “In early 2018, all we knew is that most of our spectrum would expire later that year due to the end of our concession with CAT. And we had no certainty on being able to replace it. Today, dtac sits on the most spectrum we’ve ever had and a lot of it will not expire for another 15 years.”
While dtac commonly revises its 2 or 3-year strategy every year between June and October, the tumultuous events of 2018 delayed that process. “Last year, we could mainly focus on short-term tactical plans and securing our spectrum position,” said Mr. Girard. “Now, we’re back on track and just presented our 2019-2020 strategy to both investors and employees. We have also started to plan for 2021.”
SIMPLE, HONEST, HUMAN
Working alongside strategy, this team has been the workhorse that helped reduce CPA complaints from 80,000+ in January 2018 to only 5,000 per month since May 2019. But the digital products team is now focused to building new offerings that go beyond basic mobile connectivity while transitioning from its traditional Value-Added-Services role. They are helping to capture more value outside of voice and data. With direct operator billing, dtac allows unbanked customers or those without credit cards to make purchases on the Apple store and Google Play. This has the potential to unlock vastly richer digital ecosystems for them.
“We see a lot of opportunities in making our customers’ lives simpler and more convenient,” Mr. Girard said. “For example, we launched a screen protection offer in May that no one else was offering. With this add-on, our customers don’t have to worry about breaking their phones’ screen anymore. We worked very closely with our sales team to ensure that our branded staff found the registration process easy. Ease of access to services and content can be a strong differentiator for us.”
Meanwhile, the innovation team is incubating the dtac@home product with experts from technology, marketing and sales. It will allow those without fixed broadband access to connect their homes to high-speed internet. We are currently piloting 2 offers, one with 10 Mbps speed and one with 15 Mbps. The team is also part of the agile front runner and supports the squads that develop our EV ecosystem and our Smart Agriculture ecosystem. Lastly, they must continuously challenge dtac with new design thinking workshops and hackathons.
“The energy and focus in our workshops and agile teams has been really positive but we still have a lot of work to do on bridging these teams with the rest of the organization,” said Mr. Girard. “We want to empower those closer to our customers to better serve them.”
Seven years ago, dtac launched what is now the largest corporate accelerator in Thailand with seed investments in 61 startups that have reached the valuation of more than 5 billion baht. It, too, belongs to the Strategy & Innovation division.
“Start-ups, investors and companies recognized we had a major impact on kick-starting the start-up ecosystem in Thailand. On the other hand, we have struggled to bring innovation and new business models from our start-ups to dtac customers. The team is now looking to refresh the concept to get more innovation coming from the startups to dtac and a more sustainable model,” said Mr. Girard. “This is really important now as we need to develop new business models for consumers and businesses ahead of the arrival of 5G.”
Finally, a small and dedicated Internet of Things (IoT) team has been set up since July 2018. Its mandate is to build the foundation and platforms to manage IoT connectivity and devices as well as launching an alliance program with Thai companies to co-develop IoT solutions and new business models.
“We already launched an IoT SIM fully-digital journey where companies can buy or register IoT sims directly online. And with our first IoT partner ASEFA, we offer fully connected power switchboards as well as a web, IoS and Android app to monitor their performance,” Mr. Girard said. “With the 700 MHz spectrum dtac recently acquired, we’re now planning a narrow-band IoT network rollout which will allow low-energy consumption connected devices and deep indoor coverage. eSIM has also a lot of potential.”
Despite the daunting number of tasks his teams must tackled, Mr. Girard is not afraid to fail. “On one hand we need to explore, on the other we need to be focused. So, we have to start quickly and stop quickly,” he says. “More importantly, now that our network is good, we need to build new products that could delight our customers.”