Competing by staying simple

Mr Chiang Chee Cheong (left), managing director of WhizComms, and Mr Jason Kuek, deputy managing director of WhizComms, started the fibre broadband company two years ago.
Mr Chiang Chee Cheong (left), managing director of WhizComms, and Mr Jason Kuek, deputy managing director of WhizComms, started the fibre broadband company two years ago.ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

Two-year-old Internet service provider WhizComms has carved a niche for itself by offering unbundled services and short contracts

Putting its bets on the appeal of unbundled services and short contracts is paying off for Whiz Communications (WhizComms), one of the younger Internet service providers (ISPs) here.

Competing with big, established telco players is no easy feat, but the two-year-old, 18-staff-strong ISP is on course to breaking even by the middle of next year, nearly a year ahead of schedule, says WhizComms managing director Chiang Chee Cheong, 64.

Previously, it was estimated that it would take 31/2 years for the company to break even, he says.

WhizComms broke into Singapore's crowded home fibre broadband market nearly two years ago.

Set up by telecommunications veterans Chiang and Jason Kuek, 61, WhizComms launched its first and only product then - a 1Gbps home fibre broadband plan - on Nov 1, 2016.

In the 1990s, Mr Chiang and Mr Kuek started Phoenix Communications, which specialised in International Direct Dialling (IDD) services. However, with the advent of messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram, the IDD business was hit hard. That prompted them to start WhizComms.

The initial days were tough, said Mr Chiang. "People didn't know who WhizComms was and they were sceptical and wondered if we would still be around," he says.

We will advise customers to the extent that if they do not need an extra mesh Wi-Fi router, that they don't get it from us.

WHIZCOMMS MANAGING DIRECTOR CHIANG CHEE CHEONG

But WhizComms has carved out a niche by doing away with the bundles, which include cable TV and phone line, that most other ISPs are selling.

"It is differentiation that we are very focused on," says Mr Kuek, who serves as WhizComms deputy managing director. "If there is a gap that the market has not fulfilled, we will focus on it."

"We unbundled the services rather than bundled them… Some customers don't need so many services," says Mr Chiang.

He feels that the younger generation does not even watch cable TV and consumes content via only the Internet. And a broadband line is all they need.

He cites examples of some customers having to buy another router because they are not satisfied with the bundled router. "Why should you pay for that (bundled) router when you can just buy the line? We even unbundled this way," he says.

Another reason WhizComms is still in the game is due to its short contracts, says Mr Kuek.

"Over many years, very few (ISPs) offer a 12-month contract but we saw the potential," he says. He cites the likes of foreign students and expatriates who do not want a long 24-month contract.

WhizComms' first offering was the cheapest in the market at that time, charging only $36 a month for a 12-month contract. Back then, only Singtel and SuperInternet offered a 12-month 1Gbps plan, at $69.90 and $80 a month, respectively.

WhizComms also prides itself on its customer service. "We will advise customers to the extent that if they do not need an extra mesh Wi-Fi router, that they don't get it from us," says Mr Chiang.

Listening to customers' feedback and finding solutions for them is another reason customers choose WhizComms, Mr Kuek points out.

WhizComms introduced its second product - a 300Mbps fibre broadband plan - in May at a time when no other ISP offered such a solution. And that is based on customers' feedback that they do not need a 1Gbps high-speed network.

The company charges $29 a month for a 12-month 300Mbps fibre broadband plan (without router).

"Once customers sign up with us, we are pretty confident that they will stay on," says Mr Chiang.

From a staff count of eight at its inception, WhizComms has more than doubled its workforce to 18. This does not include outsourced employees.

"We are happy at this time in terms of our growth rate," says Mr Chiang.

WhizComms currently has around 6,000 subscribers. The company is seeing, on average, about 500 new sign-ups every month.

However, WhizComms has no plans to expand, as that will require a lot of resources. "We do things one step at a time," says Mr Chiang.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2018, with the headline 'Competing by staying simple'. Print Edition | Subscribe