YouTube Internet Top Up – first in the world

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We recently launched an “official” YouTube Internet Top Up for DiGi customers, thanks to the super cooperation with the YouTube team based out of Asia and San Bruno.

This was a unique milestone for both DiGi and YouTube given the huge demand for the service with our customers and the complexity of working with the architecture of YouTube’s IP addresses.

So if you have a DiGi mobile connection, give it a shot. Dial *200# or go to myinternet.com.my. Priced at RM1 for 100MB for 24 hours. This will add the additional Internet megabytes to your account just for YouTube (and Viki). 100MB will give you about 15minutes of streaming at 240p.

YouTube and the opportunity to own part of the content world

At the recent YouTube Pulse, I shared how DiGi was using the platform to drive meaningful business – buying YouTube ads, and creating ads catered for the YouTube audience.

Like most other brands, we have not garnered significant subscribers on our YouTube channel. We are able to command large number of views on (some) individual videos, but havent quite figured out the way to tap into owning a content channel.

It was an eye opener and reminder that the world is moving faster than we think it is. On YouTube we find the younger audience now completely driving new content categories. Bethany Mota, among others. The channel has over 6 million subscribers, even higher than Lady Gaga, and she is driving an audience that wants to hear her story via all forms of social media.

What is intriguing for a telco is that the way we usually think, we force fit ourselves into a different end of the spectrum of Google’s content machine. We are spending money on ads, and working on metrics to monetise the returns on those investments – YouTube-specific ads, complemented by search buys and more. But what about the opportunity to  produce and own the content? 

I ponder on the opportunity for traditional Internet access providers / telcos to move into this space. With some money, we could invest into owning new forms of content categories that have the potential to be “milked” in many ways in the future. Building an audience that wants this content may turn this into a product / brand of its own. I feel brands that get their heads around this will win big.

After all, content is evergreen.

Predictability + Desirability

One marketing lesson stood out for me in 2011.

It was the reminder that the combination of (1) predictability and (2) desirability in a product portfolio can deliver outstanding results to beat your competitors. This is especially true in the consumer electronics business.

Apple does this really well with the iPhone and iPad. And up until recently, Samsung has started to replicate this theory with its lineup of Galaxy smartphones and tablets.

Ever since we launched the iPhone in March 2010, I have bumped into many customers that know what they want to buy, and when they want to buy it. I always thought this was plainly about the desire of owning an iPhone – but it seems to be driven by more than that.

When customers view the line-up of phones from HTC, they see a bunch of random sexy models every year. Once you buy a HTC Sensation, what do I look forward to next year? It is hard to put your finger to it. At least for now.

Making desirable products (a little) more predictable over the course of time seems to be the recipe “du jour”:

  1. Predictable timelines help create more anticipation: that there is a new iPhone every year,  usually between August – October. Customers tend to plan ahead and build up savings just to buy the latest device. And knowing when something is going to be released makes them feel more in control of the situation.
  2. Predictable branding helps create free publicity for an “unborn” product: “I am waiting for the iPhone 5″. Some customers hold off their purchases in anticipation of a new model that they seem to know before Apple has even announced it. The iPhone 3GS was succeeded by the iPhone 4, and now the blogs are buzzing about the iPhone 4S successor, the iPhone 5.

We will see more of this in 2012.

The iPhone 5 and iPad 3. And let us not forget the Galaxy S3 =)

Social knowledge sharing

Wow. I am now a father.

My wife and I welcomed our son last month, and it has been tiring. Sure, there is the whole joy of welcoming a newborn, but it is downright tiring.

Nothing has gotten me prepared for parenthood unlike experiencing it myself. In the span of thirty days, I have learned a lot about diapers, hunger cries, gripe water, the miracles of breastfeeding (and how to use the washing machine). Things I never knew before.

There have been many moments where my wife and I have turned to each other, feeling unsure and not knowing what to do:

How many times should he be pooping?
Is it OK to mix bottle feeding and breast feeding?
Which diapers work best?
Why does he have acne?

In many of these moments, we have turned to the Internet. Babycenter, Kellymom, Dr Sears, and even the aging Yahoo Answers. All this, to get some comfort from social proof. That feeling of conformity, knowing that other parents have experienced it too. And let me tell you this – it works.

My guess is that social knowledge sharing is the next big area of growth in the quest to make search even better. What we called “forums” way back, but simpler and more genuine. Services such as Quora are defining this space, and I believe there are more opportunities to provide Q&A services for other “real world” segments such as parenting.

There is a wealth of untapped information sitting in the minds of real world heroes. Mothers and my parents for instance. They have experienced practical and useful anecdotes of life and are unaware of the positive value it can bring to others if shared within the right context.

What our real world heroes need either does not exist or has not been communicated to them, and that to me is a gold mine of an opportunity for startups looking to pivot.

Why English matters for Malaysia

The hot topic in Malaysia over the past few weeks is on whether schools should continue to teach Math and Science in English.

Everyone has something to say. Not just the politicians.

I can relate two stories around this topic:

  1. My sister is one of the many students that have benefited from this policy. She was part of the first batch in 2003, and was also part of the first batch to switch from Bahasa Malaysia to English as first year students in their secondary education. There was obviously a learning curve in getting used to the new terms. But fast forward to where she is today – a successful scholar at the University of Chicago, majoring in Economics. I recall a chat we had where she found that she was glad she could understand the various math and scientific concepts in her A-Levels programme.
  2. I work at DiGi, which is part of the Telenor group out of Norway. Almost all of our business correspondence is conducted in English, including documentation. We work with colleagues in 12 different countries, and English is a key enabler in communicating. An individual’s ability to move up his or her career within this international group is highly dependent on the level of proficiency in English.

But this debate on policies is beyond just getting our children to understand Math and Science. It is also about exposing their minds at a young age to master a second language. Being a former British colony, English is the natural choice as a second language for most people. And being able to spend more hours exposed to the language in schools will give these children a greater chance at standing out against their peers in the region.

In my opinion, English really matters for the future of Malaysia and Malaysians. Three things come to mind – each a cause that creates an effect:

  1. There is enormous economic value in creating a bilingual workforce: Malaysia stands a greater chance of differentiating itself versus the rest in the region simply by building a smarter workforce that can speak English as an international language. Language lends credence to Malaysia moving up the ladders of the knowledge economy.
  2. A bilingual workforce will attract foreign investments: with a bilingual workforce, we stand a greater chance at attracting international companies looking to setup operations here. Singapore is ahead of Malaysia on this note, but Malaysia does seem to promise more potential given its richness in natural resources.
  3. Foreign investments attract talent diversity: I recall a quote from a Lee Kuan Yew biography stating that a country can only move forward if she can attract diversity in talent. It is not just about the white collar work force, but also the diversity in culture. Sports men, actors, singers, and more will be attracted to a country that allows freedom of expression through an international language such as English, and this in turn will create a rich and dynamic country.

I applaud groups such as PAGE that are fighting to uphold the use of English in schools. This is probably one of the smartest policies Malaysia has set in place for her children, and I hope it lives on for the sake of the next generation.

On saying No

My Swedish colleague and I experienced an unpleasant event last week.

His foreign credit card got sucked into the ATM machine at our office. He called the bank’s hotline, and they told him over the phone that it was impossible to retrieve the card, and that it would be destroyed immediately.

So, picture yourself in his shoes. You have traveled half way across the world. Now you are without your credit card and unable to withdraw cash to survive in (unforgiving) Kuala Lumpur.

I thought I would get a better response if I tried calling the hotline myself. Same answer: “No, you cannot get the card back”. Tough luck.

We decided to visit the nearest branch the following morning. This time we were greeted by the bank manager, whom upon hearing my colleague’s story, immediately said, “No”.

But this time around we had an avenue to explain the case, and persisted a little more. She made some calls while we sat in front of her. After waiting 15 minutes, she gave us the answer we were looking for: “Yes, you can get your card back within 2 working days”.

The bank arranged for the card to be returned to its branch in one piece. We got a call to collect the card within 2 hours, which was to our surprise.

Think about it.

It is easier to say no to you customers over virtual touch points: phone, email, web, etc.

But it is much harder to say no to your customers when they are in front of you. Emotions come into play.

Rules can be broken when you persist in person. But that just takes too much effort for customers. Brands that allow these rules to be broken (or bent) via virtual touch points could stand a greater chance of being loved.

What have you achieved?

Once a month, my team in DiGi meets for a “team meeting”. We try to keep this as efficient as possible by focusing on 3 things: (a) every one gets a chance to chair the meeting to understand the dynamics of managing people, (b) every one gets a chance to present ideas and speak out, and (c) we put a hard stop at 60 minutes to complete everything on the agenda.

At last Friday’s meeting, we decided to tweak the agenda to incorporate some time to reflect on our individual achievements over the past month. We went around the table starting with me, and everyone picked one achievement that they felt proud to talk about.

It was one of my most inspiring moments as a leader. Everyone, regardless of rank, had something they wanted to share, and there were moments where some stood up to give a standing ovation to their peers.

It’s moments like these that I love most at work.

It got me thinking.

In an ideal world, I would like to measure what I do on a daily / weekly / monthly basis. Being able to document what you have achieved regardless of how big / small it is, is critical to knowing whether you are being productive. I have read some articles talking about how some companies force their people to email out one achievement at the end of every week to the rest of their team mates – this puts pressure on everyone to perform and have something worth talking about before the end of the week. It takes a lot of discipline to implement something like this.

For now, I am happy with my team’s small step forward. If we can be consistent in how we reflect on achievements as a team, I believe we will work harder to outperform every month.