Inside Look

YOUR WINDOW INTO THE AUSTRALIAN TECH SCENE

Tuesday November 19 2019

To Australia and Beyond: Visionary Digital Telco Circles.Life Talks Culture, Tech, and Launching in Oz

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Written by Michael Catford

August 26, 2019

“The future is digital.”

These words have been uttered by almost every professional, stakeholder, business and organisation over the last couple of decades, and it’s fair to say that we are now at a point where digital is no longer the future — it’s the present.

Telecommunications companies have been critical in this digital revolution, delivering the connectivity upon which these technological advances rely. But in an ironic twist, many of these telcos are tied to their traditional roots. They can’t just stop offering landline, fax and SMS services, lest they annoy or inconvenience their less progressive customers. This means that in reality, they can’t be particularly agile or innovative at all.

Understanding that the largest telcos were chained to tradition, Singapore-based Circles.Life sensed an opportunity to do things a little differently.

Digitising the entire telco experience

Having been founded in 2013, Circles.Life launched a mobile virtual network based in the cloud in 2016, which automated traditional telco systems to such a degree that the company could cut its customers’ costs by an almost insane degree — up to 95% in some cases. It has since become the fastest growing digital telco in Singapore, and has begun a rapid international expansion (but we’ll talk more about that in a moment).

“At Circles.Life, everything we do revolves around giving power back to the customer and continuing to innovate in the telco industry,” Kai Qi Soh, a Senior Commercial Associate, explains.

“We’re approaching [telecommunications] from a hyper customer-centric point of view — what is the customer frustrated with and how can we make sure that we remove or reduce those frustrations? We’re going to ensure that they get a great customer experience with Circles.Life.”

They achieve this by giving their customers total control over their telecommunications usage. Their service can be managed with a smartphone app, through which a customer can do things like add, remove or adjust their desired service types, and check their bills and current balances, all with a far greater level of safety and security than a traditional telco could ever offer.

The Australian portion of a rapid expansion

With the technology proving so popular in Singapore — they have managed to corner 5% of the Singapore market share in a mere 3 years — international expansion was the next logical step.

After Taiwan’s success in June and a fresh funding round led by Singapore government-linked investor EDBI and Silicon Valley-based Founders Fund this year, Australia was identified as another perfect launching ground for the company.

“Australia doesn’t have telcos which can provide a premium customer experience, explaining their relatively low average NPS scores,” states Waseem Yusaf, the company’s Head of International Launch.

“On the other hand, we offer a premium digital experience with no long-term contract, easy access to our Customer Happiness Experts, simple products and no bill shock (we don’t do hidden fees). All of these have never been offered together in Australia.”

Having proven their model in Singapore, Circles.Life is ready to provide what Australia lacks, confirms Soh.

“The response Circles.Life has gotten in Singapore so far is a resounding affirmation that we’ve created something great. Who would’ve thought that a telco would actually have superfans? We’ve always had ambitions to expand, to revolutionise the telco industry globally — there’s no better time than now.”

As to why Australia is ideal, Yusaf says that entering the market allows Circles.Life a “great opportunity” to challenge the status quo and improve the telco experience.

Rochelle Harju, the company’s Sydney-based Training & Quality Manager, sees the company’s expansion only accelerating from here.

“Circles.Life is really excited about sharing our unique technology stack with other countries. We have been busy building a business model that is easy to replicate in different markets thanks to our digital platform, Circles-X.

Australians are a data-hungry bunch: We cannot wait to share what we have to offer and make waves in the market here.”

A local team with an international mindset

As Yusaf explains, the expansion into Australia is already well underway, and no stone is being left unturned when it comes to creating and preparing the perfect team. Already, the Australia office is 18-strong — and with the arrival of the country’s General Manager, Ben Murray, things are looking promising for Circles.Life. The company has openings in multiple departments: operations, product management, quality assurance engineering, marketing and partnerships.

In fact, the company is so dedicated to building up company culture that every new team member hired in Australia, or any other country, will be based in the Singapore HQ for 2 weeks of training.

Yusaf says: “That way, everyone has the same understanding of the company’s culture and values, and is given the tools and knowledge needed to give power back to the customers.”

Harju describes her team as the personification of the company as a whole: “Circles.Life embodies our core values of choice, simplicity, and happiness. We empower our customers to get more out of life by giving them control over their mobile plans. The key focus is giving the power back to the customer, we don’t just say this — we live and breathe this sentiment!”

Identifying and attracting top talent

Leading tech companies understand the importance of attracting the best talent, and Circles.Life is no different. The company has taken great care to craft a creative, innovative and fun in-office environment.

Yusaf explains: “We highly value ownership, meaning that everyone here has the freedom to provide ideas and run their own projects — as long as it will make an impact on our business. We don’t limit people and their ideas. We want them to feel like they’re founders. We also have a program called Space Explorers, where we ask employees to nominate their peers who make an impact in the office. The successful nominees will be eligible to receive up to six months’ worth of salary in stock options, win exciting cash prizes, go on a sponsored training course of their choice, and be mentored directly by founders, amongst other things.”

The same sentiment is shared by Harju. “We encourage Circles.Lifers to take every opportunity available to upgrade their knowledge, and to develop themselves professionally and personally. It is because of this culture that the founders have developed that opportunities are offered internally to those striving to further their careers. The company may push people to be their best, but the rewards and recognition are well worth it.”

Harju is also clear in the sort of professional that she and the Circles.Life team want to attract.

“We’re looking for open-minded, bold, innovative, hardworking people that challenge the norm, think outside the box and do so in a collaborative environment. We’re looking for those who thrive in a tech-inspired culture, but are also humble. With all the growth happening in the company, we need people with the same mindset of always wanting to learn and grow.”

Getting in on the ground floor

When asked to summarise the Circles.Life mindset in one phrase, Soh becomes pensive.

“With big dreams and grit, the world is yours,” she said.

“When we started out in Singapore, we had extremely big ambitions to take on the telco giants. People thought we were crazy. We even had difficulties securing investors back then. We had big dreams to reimagine the telco experience — something vastly different from what was done at the time. With those dreams and the determination to chase our crazy goals, we did it a few years earlier than planned. It is important to dream big and to have the courage to pursue targets with conviction.”

Circles.Life isn’t in the business of thinking small or within the box. It’s a company that is growing and evolving at a rate rarely seen, and its Australian expansion represents one of their first major steps in what could prove to be a long and exciting journey.

If you’re a professional who does their best work in a diverse, innovative and rapidly growing team, Circles.Life’s expansion into Australia couldn’t have come at a better time. Check out their latest job openings!

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Written by Michael Catford

August 26, 2019

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