One on one: Dindo Marzan, Managing Director and Head of Voyager Business
One on one: Dindo Marzan, Managing Director and Head of Voyager Business
In a study conducted by research firm IDC in July 2016, it was revealed that more than half of enterprises in the Asia-Pacific region are considered laggards in terms of digital maturity. Digital maturity, according to Dindo Marzan, Managing Director and Head of Voyager Business, is characterized by familiarity with technology and openness to new innovations.
We recently sat with him to talk about digital maturity in the Philippines, the role of digital millennials in pushing digital maturity, self-disruption, and what the future holds for Filipino big enterprises and SMEs with Voyager Business’ services.
Many enterprises in the Asia-Pacific region are still considered as laggards in terms of digital maturity. Applying this perspective in the Philippine setting, how do you describe the current local scene?
In terms of disruptive technologies or being open to be disrupted by small or new players in the industry, I think we are at par with our neighboring countries. As a matter of fact, Indonesia looks at the Philippines as a benchmark. When I visited Indonesia, I was surprised that they look up to us in terms of digitalization or having disruptive businesses and technologies. We are also close to Thailand in terms of digital maturity. However, Malaysia and Singapore are already ahead of us. It is no surprise as Singapore is a First World country, whereas Malaysia is a very promising one. A lot of expats are going there and, with better infrastructure and technology, they enjoy faster Internet speeds. Well-exposed with other First World countries, their mindsets are influenced by those coming from Europe and the Silicon Valley.
Going back to the Philippines, I believe that it is not about the infrastructure and the platforms that are available, but it is about the culture and the mindset of people here. There are many conservatives here. The good thing, however, is the strong presence of the digital millennials who are influencing the older guys. Because of digital millennials, the older guys, who are usually the bosses, begin to appreciate new ways of doing things. Currently, there are many conferences in the country that teach companies in addressing the digital millennial economy and workforce. Bit by bit, the bosses are becoming more open-minded, which leads to digital maturity.
Speaking of digital maturity, what are the factors that determine a country or an enterprise digitally mature?
The first would familiarity with the technologies. Second would be open-mindedness to these new technologies or new ways of doing things. Being a technology-savvy company, you should not be technophobic. Third would be being a visionary. Being able to see what the future holds, not only for the industry, but also for the country as a whole. If you are a visionary, you would know that three to five years from now Internet speeds would not just be 10Mbps but could go up to 100Mbps. You have to always consider that in your company, you should have a visionary.
For example, in Voyager, we have Mr. Orlando Vea, the visionary who actually founded Smart during the time when telecommunications in the Philippines primarily relied on the fixed lines of PLDT. He was actually the one who challenged the company to explore wireless technologies as a means to cover the countryside where fixed lines were difficult to establish. And now that he is with Voyager, he thinks about or actually envisions tapping digital technologies in addressing the needs of the market. It pays to have a visionary in the company who is usually the CEO as he or she is the one who sets direction.
According to IDC, at least 45% of enterprises in the region belong to the “Digital Resister” stage of digital maturity, or those that provide weak customer experience through digital. At least 33%, meanwhile, are “Digital Explorers,” or those that have digitally-enabled customer experiences and products. Less than 25% of firms fall under the “Digital Player,” “Digital Transformer,” and “Digital Disruptor.”
Do we consider companies that fall under traditional industries as the conservatives or digital resisters? Can you cite industries that are categorized as digital resisters?
I do not think that it is about the industry, but it is more about the people. A real estate company, for example, could be innovative or trailblaizer if there is someone in the organization who is a visionary and very open to exploring new things. Banking industry would always be stereotyped conservative but Unionbank, for example, is doing well in terms of envisioning new ways of doing things. So as BPI, which has subscribed to Voyager’s freenet service, formerly known as SafeZone.
Freenet, the sponsored platform data of Voyager, enables brands and enterprises to provide free access to their mobile apps or websites to their customers without data charges for Smart, TNT, and Sun subscribers.
Companies should know first if they are the ones who disrupt or the one who are being disrupted in the industry. Usually, in the grand scheme of things, the ones that are being disrupted are the big players. They are the Goliaths. The startups, the Davids, are the ones that challenge these big companies. The big players in the local banking industry are being challenged, for example, by PayMaya Business by introducing virtual VISA card through a mobile application.
PayMaya Business makes it easy and convenient for merchants to accept card payments both online and face-to-face. This made possible by PayMaya Swipe and PayMaya Checkout, which are just some of the products under Voyager subsidiary PayMaya Philippines, Inc.
PLDT is a big player, but it disrupted itself by introducing Smart, which eventually became a new way of connecting and communicating through wireless technologies. Likewise, Smart is now being disrupted by Voyager, which is introducing over-the-top and non-exclusive services, even if you are subscribed to Globe. By knowing if your company is the one who disrupts or the one being disrupted, you become self-conscious in managing the situation. But ideally, companies should be both. For example, a company may allocate 70% of its resources for its core services, then the remaining 30% to be able to disrupt yourself, by partnering with new players and looking at new innovations, which will result in new revenue streams and business models. By making that disruptive business successful, a company can easily migrate from its core services, which are classified as legacy or traditional business, to a new business model.
One classic example is Kodak. Focusing too much on film, they failed to begin and invest in digital photography, resulting in its demise. If they started doing both, introducing digital cameras earlier, and shifting the incoming revenues from film to SD cards, Kodak’s story could have been different.
We’re talking about big companies. How about smaller industries such as sari-sari stores? Do you see the “going digital” trend penetrating these segments?
As a matter of fact, Voyager is already working with SMEs. Their requirements are simpler, which mainly consist of being connected and ecommerce inclusion. They are selling products and they simply want to be present online. We have partnered with DTI in introducing these SMEs to ecommerce seminars, educating them in certain areas, mostly those belonging to rural areas as they are usually the ones that have limited access. We make them aware that there are platforms that they can use for free like Voyager’s TackThis!. We find working with SMEs fulfilling as their mindset is similar to that of a startup. They are willing to try new things as they have nothing to lose, knowing that they are just starting to earn revenues. We are aware that all businesses have aspirations to grow. Voyager wants to grow with our clients. We are with them in every step of the way up to the point that they consider themselves as big enterprises.
TackThis! Concierge is a fully managed ecommerce service suite that makes it easy for brands to sell easily online. It helps businesses put up their online stores, manage payments and logistics platforms, and even help with digital marketing for products so that firms can focus on running their core businesses.