Circles.Life raising S'pore headcount to spur expansion

Digital telco Circles.Life plans to boost its Singapore headcount, which is currently close to 250, by 25 per cent to 35 per cent over the next 12 months as it scales up its Circles X software offering.

Circles X is the proprietary technology stack that has allowed the company to launch quickly in Taiwan and Australia. Telcos often have to handle many vendors and systems that slow them down and rack up costs.

Circles.Life plans to acquire more customers for its integrated cloud-based platform as more telcos digitalise, co-founder Adeel Najam told The Business Times. Circles X operates on a software-as-a-service revenue model.

Indonesia's XL Axiata used Circles X to launch Live.On, a fully digital telco brand, in October last year. Circles.Life also has a partnership with KDDI in Japan, with digital brand povo2.0 launched last month.

The company declined to say how much Circles X contributes to overall revenue.

In Singapore, Circles.Life plans to hire for roles such as software engineers, product managers and digital marketers across new and existing business lines.

Early last year, the company laid off less than 5 per cent of employees globally. Mr Najam said the retrenchments were made to "fine-tune the model of operations" as the company expanded internationally. For example, back-end operations were consolidated in the Philippines.

Despite the pandemic, Mr Najam maintained that the layoffs were not due to monetary pressure. He pointed out that the company had just raised funding from private equity firm Warburg Pincus.

Regulatory filings of Circles.Life parent Liberty Wireless, which might not fully reflect the financials of the company, showed that revenue grew by 17.3 per cent year on year to $103.6 million for the 12 months to Dec 31, 2020. Net loss narrowed to $14.9 million from $21 million after a narrowing of gross loss, and government grants.

Mr Najam declined to discuss those figures, saying Circles.Life is a private company.

Circles.Life last year underwent a restructuring exercise and incorporated its ultimate holding company in the Cayman Islands, corporate records show.

Liberty Wireless' parent Circles Asia was in June last year wholly acquired by Circles.Life Cayman. The ultimate holding company is Circles Asia Cayman.

Regulatory filings of Singapore-incorporated Circles Asia indicated cash and bank balances of $17.7 million as at end-December last year, almost halved from $34.7 million a year ago. The consolidated income statement of the company was not presented due to the new holding structure.

Circles Asia owns entities incorporated across Singapore, Hong Kong, India, Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Circles.Life now employs over 450 staff in Singapore, Taiwan, Australia, Indonesia, Japan and South Asia.

Mr Najam said there are plans to improve Circles.Life's employee stock option plan programme.

Currently, two months' salary worth of stock options is offered each year to full-time employees. Top-performing employees receive up to eight months' salary worth of stock options.

"Everyone gets it in all countries, from the customer service front-liners in the Philippines to engineers at our R&D (research and development) hub in Singapore who are building our Circles X platform," said Mr Najam.

THE BUSINESS TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2021, with the headline 'Circles.Life raising S'pore headcount to spur expansion'. Subscribe