By Tippamas Kaysee
Special to The Nation
Today, an estimated 4 to 5 million migrants are working in Thailand. More than 80 per cent are DTAC customers. Similarly, 50 per cent of Chinese tourists use the company’s SIMs during their holidays here. This market share was achieved using a customer-centric approach to rapidly innovate and scale new products.
Last May, as footballer Aung Thu scored a 93rd-minute goal for Police Tero, Fox News Asia tweeted, “Has there been a better new signing than the Myanmar star this season?” I’d add a broader point to that question: those who overlook the formidable potential of Asian migrants and visitors in Thailand do so at their own peril.
DTAC is very much focused on the combined might of the 2.5 million Myanmar people living here. That’s why we chose Aung Thu as our brand ambassador. Like DTAC’s migrant customers from Myanmar, Aung Thu came here to work hard and support his family back home. To better understand this demographic, but also those of Cambodian migrants and Chinese tourists, my team has had to change how we work, take more risks, get closer to our customers and rapidly scale what works.
Working with the right influencers, like Aung Thu, is an important factor to stake DTAC’s dominance in these demographics. But our customisations go well beyond skin-deep. Menus and notifications are all translated. Rates to call back home are the best in the market. Distribution channels are carefully tailored to each segment. Over the years, we have had to continuously evolve to be more agile and daring. As part of these changes, we embraced design thinking to better understand niche markets and to create solutions specifically tailored to them. While our first step was making SIMs with packaging and instructions fully translated into Burmese and Cambodian, we then spent a lot of time speaking to customers in these segments and deepening our insights.
Today, our competitors have woken up to the huge market migrants represent, but they still struggle to catch up with us because our understanding of Asian migrants and visitors goes well beyond translation.
In China, for example, we work directly with online travel agents – a project we undertook with dtac accelerate start-up TakeMeTour before scaling it with larger operators. For foreign workers from Cambodia or Myanmar, we instead focus on the fresh markets they frequent most often. No two demographics will require the same approach.
Even DTAC’s famous reward program has been fine-tuned to our customers’ various needs. When sending almost every baht you make back home, a discount for Swensen’s ice cream might not be a welcome treat. Instead, we give migrant workers printed coupons redeemable at their local grocers. As for Chinese tourists, we offer eight-day travel insurance and integrated payments with Alipay.
We are constantly innovating and rolling out new solutions. DTAC even has free roaming packages to browse the Internet while visiting the family back home in Cambodia or Myanmar. But what matters most is the process by which we develop these services. To conquer a new niche, make sure you truly understand it. In the digital era, design thinking should be at the heart of every effort to better serve customers.
Tippamas Kaysee is vice president and head of the prepaid migrant and tourist segment department at DTAC.