Telcos must transform service delivery: MyRepublic CIO

Rahul Joshi and Chong Vin Nee
Enterprise Innovation

Founded in 2011, MyRepublic is best known for being the first ISP in Singapore to launch 1Gbps broadband plans at mass-market pricing. Seen somewhat as a disruptor, the Singaporean brand is now active in 4 markets in the region. Within the next two years, the company has plans for an IPO and already has teams actively looking for partnership opportunities for four further expansions. Potential sites include Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.

Eugene Yeo, Group CIO at MyRepublic, has been a part of the company since its earliest days, and started coding when he was in his early teens, he told Enterprise Innovation in an exclusive interview. But "rather than go to university and get a degree in IT, which I felt was not going to value add, I felt that I wanted to foray into something different," he revealed. Yeo attended SMU to study business administration, which allowed him to learn about managing business, running an organization, and growing a team.

Early adopters of cloud

“We are firm believers of using IT as a strategic tool to make sure our company remains innovative and a disruptor, staying ahead of everyone,” said Yeo. “As we grew the company over the last 5 years, we realized that there was a huge potential. The way we do things is very different from the incumbents,” said Yeo. “Embracing open source, embracing technologies out there to help us become more agile and efficient …we realized that there’s huge value in them and that there’s potential to grow the business into something much bigger.”

As a firm believer of utilizing IT to stay ahead of the competition, MyRepublic adopted cloud technology even before the idea of cloud infrastructure gained wide traction. This significantly differed from other telcos that had invested heavily in legacy infrastructure, according to Yeo.

They also developed their own business support systems (BSS) and operations support systems (OSS), believing this to be a move critical to their agility as a company. MyRepublic originally adopted public cloud for their BSS and OSS stack, but placed network-critical applications on traditional VMs in their data centers.

Eventually, their infrastructure evolved to be cloud native. Yeo highlighted: “We really wanted to move to a hybrid cloud infrastructure across the organization and leverage an on-premise private cloud to supplement our public cloud strategy.”

MyRepublic started their first on premise cloud in Australia, and have now brought it across to their centers in Singapore and Indonesia, moving all core network applications onto the on-premise cloud. Setting their foundations in cloud allowed MyRepublic to scale flexibly and expand rapidly into new markets – taking fewer than 60 days for their Australia and New Zealand markets.

"Because we already had our foundation set with cloud, for us to be able to scale from 300 thousand [cutomers] to a million to 5 million isn’t really a big challenge", said Yeo. "Even though we are a fairly young company, we believe in continuous improvement, and we’re actually embarking on our own transformation program internally. We’re embarking on what we call a customer experience transformation within the entire organization - to make sure that customer-centric culture is right at the root of MyRepublic."

Emphasis on open source

Apart from being a firm believer in the cloud, Yeo is also a staunch supporter of open source, and partnered with RedHat to deploy OpenStack earlier this year.

MyRepublic’s open source journey started when they introduced their engineers to the open source community to kick-start their understanding on how the technology worked, what potential challenges might be faced, and the general sentiment of the community through feedback. MyRepublic started with three engineers - but now with a team of 70 - 80 engineers, Yeo believes the time has come to contribute heavily back to the community.

“We would have never got to the first version of our software without open source – from open source databases, to open source libraries, workflow engines etc. These actually helped us get to the next level faster,” said Yeo.

With internet giants likes Facebook and Google being very active in the open source community, there has been massive ratcheting up of input into the open source space over the past few years. To this, Damien Wong, Vice President and General Manager, ASEAN, Red Hat, added: “Innovation is still happening in the proprietary space. I don’t think open source is the only way of innovation, but I think that it has gained such momentum that it cannot be ignored by any organization.”

The evolving telco industry

Arguably, the telco industry is traditionally one of the most conservative industries when it comes to innovation, disruption and transformation, Yeo believes. With disruptive technologies such as cloud, open source, 5G, machine learning, and IoT looming on the horizon, the telco industry is transforming to keep up with the times.

Traditional means of texting and calling are a thing of the past, replaced by alternative platforms – such as WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger – powered by mobile data. The rise of smartphones and the power to consume applications also changes the needs and requirements of customers. In the telco space, it is apparent that telcos are trying to move from being communication service providers to becoming digital service providers.

“You want services provided by the service provider to be intelligent, relevant, affordable, and accessible – all those attributes have to be there. With all the technologies that have evolved and been created… I think it is quite clear that telcos are moving from hardware-based infrastructure to software-based infrastructure for reasons of agility,” said Wong. “Moving forward, we are going into 5G, and people who can capitalize on that 5G infrastructure are going to be extremely successful."

In the shorter term - over the next 3 years or so - telcos need to become very efficient in the way that they deliver their services, according to Yeo. Connectivity is going to become a utility like water or electricity. "It’s not about optic fiber, mobile SIM, etc - people don’t care. In the end, they just want to be connected. That’s really the value proposition and the demand from the consumers. They just want connectivity in the fastest and most affordable way, and don’t care how you deliver it to them. Telcos need to understand that and know how to create the efficiency in that space," he said.

“We are moving to the data world, and data is money,” said Yeo. "There will come a day where you don’t need to pay for a SIM card, because your data will already pay for that connectivity. Telcos' business models have to evolve - I see that telcos are going to start moving towards monetizing the data that they get, figure out how best to innovate using that data, and then use that data to fund the growth of the business."

First published in Enterprise Innovation

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