Interview with Lian Pek
Singtel has come out as Singapore’s strongest brand and the world’s 6th strongest telecoms brand, improving this year its perceptions of coverage, value, the quality of digital platforms and familiarity with brand. What have you been doing to contribute to this success?
Let’s just say that we’ve simply not let up. Singtel is a household name that’s widely acknowledged as best-in-class, but this makes maintaining and growing the brand all that more challenging because we have to constantly evolve to stay ahead of the competition. How do we provide faster and more powerful connectivity; how do we provide better value; how do we respond faster to customers – these are just some of the questions that our teams obsess about on a daily basis. So when we collectively step on the pedal hard enough, to deliver a technological first such as the completion of our 5G network rollout, which in turn spurs other innovations, we’re able to generate a breakthrough in brand building and really amplify our brand.
At the same time, we all know how you say something is as important as what you say, which is why we lean heavily on storytelling to humanise our brand and make it relatable. The first and largest 5G consumer use case in Singapore for example, was captured in a film about our engineers who were racing against time to soup up the Marina Bay floating platform with 5G for Singapore’s National Day parade celebrations and all the video streaming that typically ensues. That behind-the-scenes look at our engineers and their passion for bringing 5G to the public became a simple but authentic and powerful way of getting across our message about empowering people with technology. We believe our efforts to humanise a potentially dry topic like wireless technology have created that rare emotional bond with our customers and stakeholders and a strong brand affinity.
“Singtel is a household name that’s widely acknowledged as best-in-class, but this makes maintaining and growing the brand all that more challenging because we have to constantly evolve to stay ahead of the competition. So when we collectively step on the pedal hard enough, to deliver a technological first such as the completion of our 5G network rollout, which in turn spurs other innovations, we’re able to generate a breakthrough in brand building and really amplify our brand.”
Telecoms brands have for a long time needed to embrace the newest technology and harness data on a large scale. However, with the roll-out of 5G, higher expectations of apps and websites and the rising spectre of scams, top quality technology is becoming ever more important. What is Singtel doing to keep ahead of other brands in this area?
We keep our eyes peeled on the future. We keep investing and innovating to generate technological firsts and bests, working closely with industry partners to build a robust 5G ecosystem. Our 5G leadership for example, was the result of dedicating scarce manpower during the COVID-19 period, to complete Singapore’s nationwide 5G network last July, three years ahead of regulatory timelines. This put Singapore on the world map as the first country with standalone 5G coverage, opening up a wealth of opportunities not just for us but also the businesses and industries we support.
The implications for mobile and data connectivity are obvious and we’ve been chalking up bests for dramatically higher speeds and lower latency. But this technology has in turn allowed us to introduce something called network slicing - where a series of virtual networks can be created - to drive our own Paragon platform that helps enterprises deploy 5G, edge computing and low latency apps and services with less expense and time. This industry-first platform has recently helped us sign our first commercial customer - the National University Health System - which is using mixed reality technology to help surgeons better visualise organs in high resolution 3D, and plan operating procedures.
In short, the Singtel brand is 5G ready and that’s a huge differentiator when companies choose who to partner to fast track their businesses and digital transformations. And at the end of the day, 5G is the key to improving lives, from medicine to cars, to entertainment, education and smart homes, and we want to be part of that equation as everyone moves to improve society with technology.
How did Singtel come up with its group purpose “Empower Every Generation” and why is it so important to the business? What actions has Singtel taken to live this purpose?
Since our beginnings as Singapore’s sole telecoms provider, our role as a corporate citizen and our responsibilities towards society have always been keenly felt. But COVID-19 threw that into new relief. While remote working was introduced to curtail its spread, the need to continue serving our customers and ensure business continuity was equally pressing. Our frontline staff in retail and our field engineers led by example when they continued showing up in person for work, to tend to our customers. This really reinforced our belief that when we take care of our staff, they will in turn take care of our customers. And this reminder of the interdependency of our stakeholders, together with the rise of ESG issues, triggered some corporate soul searching that resulted in our first-ever purpose statement - Empower Every Generation - in October 2021 after weeks of discussions and staff consultations. This statement isn’t a tagline or marketing campaign. It articulates our long-held commitment to empower and positively impact all our stakeholders, from our employees, customers, shareholders to the wider community. At its crux is the conviction that for our business to be a long-term success, we should not only focus on doing well but also on doing good. By extension, when we do good for our stakeholder communities, we would naturally do well.
Are we living our purpose? We’ve certainly accelerated our sustainability actions by setting ambitious targets to reduce our carbon footprint, increasing our use of renewable energy, and promoting sustainable practices across our operations. We track and disclose our progress against those targets to ensure we are transparent and accountable. Next April, we’ll embark on the redevelopment of our flagship Singtel Comcentre office into a state-of-the-art net zero energy building that will give our folks a workplace that’s aligned with our values.
On the people front, we invest S$20 million annually to help our staff reskill and retrain for the digital economy, and to strengthen the expertise of our engineers. We continue our long-standing support for special needs children through the Singtel Touching Lives Fund which has raised some S$54 million to date. And we support the performing and visual arts with our donations totalling S$30 million to the Singtel Waterfront Theatre at the Esplanade and our Singtel Special Exhibitions Gallery at the National Gallery of Singapore.
Our larger purpose of lifting our communities has really helped to focus the company and given it a strategic discipline to reach for long-term profitability. If we can use our best-in-class technology to build a more inclusive, diverse and sustainable society - why wouldn’t we?