13 June, 2008

Telecom services top innovation rankings

DiGi and Maxis score with new mobile offerings, while Nestlé wins most-admired prize with its traditional brands


Malaysia will spend 500 million ringgit (147 million dollars) to build 1,250 telecommunication towers over the next two years to increase nationwide mobile phone coverage.

Energy, Water and Communications Minister Shaziman Abu Mansor said the government would begin building the towers from next month, adding that construction was scheduled to be completed by the end of 2010.

'By then, 97 per cent of the country would have mobile phone coverage,' Shaziman was quoted as saying by the Star online news portal.

Currently, 92 per cent of the country's land area has mobile phone coverage, he said

Meanwhile, DiGi took Malaysia's top prize in the featured category, "Innovative in Responding to Customer Needs," in The Wall Street Journal Asia's Asia 200 survey of readers. DiGi was named the most innovative Malaysian company in the 2006 survey as well. It ranked fourth in this survey's overall assessment, down from third place.

A total of 2,477 executives and professionals participated in the survey, which was conducted last year between May 11 and July 3. On behalf of The Wall Street Journal, market-research firm Colmar Brunton polled subscribers as well as other businesspeople in the 12 Asian-Pacific countries.

Maxis was second in the overall most-admired rankings after topping the list in 2006. Maxis is the biggest of the top three Malaysian mobile players by subscribers. It is this survey's No. 2 Malaysian innovator.

DiGi is small by comparison -- its annual revenue is less than Maxis' operating profit. But it is competitive. Its overall mobile market share by revenue has grown to 26% from 16% four years ago.

While DiGi focuses on the Malaysian market, Maxis owner T. Ananda Krishnan has taken his company private, largely to facilitate regional expansion. Allan Khoo, head of brand and marketing communications at Maxis, says that since the brand was established, in 1995, it has been based on "value, innovation and trust," attracting a customer base that now numbers 10 million in Malaysia. Mr. Khoo points to Maxis' mobile-data business as an example of the company's own innovation.

"Maxis has the largest and most-visited mobile [wireless application protocol] portal in Malaysia, with over 200 products and services, including the largest catalog of mobile music and games, mobile TV channels and other infotainment services, like football updates, news alerts and services to check traffic," he says, also noting Maxis' service for international remittance over mobile phones. "What all this technology translates to is simply this: The phone is not just a phone, but an extension of our customer's personality and lifestyle," driving Maxis to innovate.

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