Breaking Barriers: Circles.Life On Building And Growing Singapore’s First Digital Telco
When Circles.Life was first established in 2014, it was clear that the company was out to shake things up in the telecommunications industry.
As Singapore’s first digital telco, Circles.Life set out to challenge the incumbent players and offer customers something different. With a focus on innovation, customer satisfaction, and transparency, the company has made a name for itself as a disruptor in the telecom space.
The founders of Circles.Life — Rameez Ansar, Abhishek Gupta and Adeel Najam — first met while working in various capacities across companies such as McKinsey, BCG, Temasek Holdings, Huawei, and Bain Capital.
They came together with a shared sense of frustration with the static and restrictive nature of telecommunication options at the time, which they saw as lacking in innovation and poor customer service.
Together, they set out to create a new kind of telco with a mission of “giving power back to the customer”.
Over 100,000 to over 1 million customers
Since its inception, Circles.Life has experienced impressive growth.
In its first year alone, the company was able to secure over 100,000 customers, and today it boasts a customer base of over one million. This success is due in large part to the company’s focus on providing a high-quality, reliable service that is tailored to the needs of each individual customer.
One of the key differentiators of Circles.Life is its commitment to innovation. The company has a strong focus on continually improving and evolving its services, and has developed its own proprietary operating system, “Circles X,” which enables it to offer a more seamless customer experience compared to incumbent mobile operators.
Since 2020, eSIM activation and onboarding have been a priority on Circles X. Circles’ mission is to empower users by making mobile activation simpler, more convenient and more affordable through eSIM technology.
With eSIM, there’s no need for physical SIM cards or paper clips, and activation is available 24/7, which gives consumers more choice and flexibility. Additionally, transitioning to eSIM activation has resulted in OPEX cost savings of eight times.
The eSIMs are compatible with selected iPhones and Android devices, and allows you to effortlessly switch between your lines when you travel making it convenient for users.
Circles.Life also do not have any lock-in contracts, giving users the freedom to cancel anytime and placing the power in the hands of the customers. This approach has forced the incumbents to rethink, relook and relaunch their offerings in response.
Another key factor in Circles.Life’s success has been its customer-centric approach. The company goes above and beyond to ensure that each and every customer is fully satisfied with the service they receive, including offering personalised plans and features and providing excellent customer support.
This focus on customer satisfaction has helped to build a loyal customer base that is willing to spread the word about Circles.Life to friends and family.
One of the reasons that Circles.Life is able to offer such low prices, with mobile plans as low as S$5, is because it operates as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that does not require extensive infrastructure, and therefore has lower overhead costs compared to traditional network telcos.
The company redirects its savings towards customer service excellence, which allows it to offer competitive prices to its customers.
Finally, Circles.Life is known for its transparency. The company is upfront about its fees and charges, and does not have any hidden costs that could catch customers off guard. This honesty and transparency has helped to build trust with customers and set Circles.Life apart from its competitors.
Viral marketing campaigns
Initially, it was difficult for Circles.Life to convince customers to sign up, especially since digital telcos were a very new concept at the time.
The company faced issues with lack of trust, awareness, and resources. However, Circles.Life’s viral marketing campaigns, such as the Youtiao666 vandalism and the “pay $3, get $50” vending machine, significantly helped to encourage sign-ups and solidify the brand’s reputation as a bold and unconventional player in the telecommunications industry.
As the brand matures over the years, its marketing approach has also evolved. Today, Circles.Life is focused on humanising the brand and positioning it as a lifestyle tech brand that aims to solve real-life problems faced by consumers.
One example of this is the company’s recent “Untelco Yourself” campaign in Australia, which called on Australians to stand up to overcharging and under-delivering telecoms companies, positioning Circles.Life as a telco that offers unbeatable value, flexibility, transparency, and control.
Closer to home, Circles.Life hosted “Weird Challenge” fronted by brand ambassador Kishan, which invited Singaporeans to embrace their unique identities. The competition resulted in over a hundred submissions and nearly half a million playthroughs on social media.
Circles.Life has also recently teamed up with Pokémon for the “Dare to Roam” challenge, which included an islandwide viral activation across three travel-themed destinations in Singapore, as well as a physical event at *SCAPE. The event was a huge success, with families and Pokémon enthusiasts coming out in droves to participate in exciting activities and challenges.
Circles.Life has clearly not lost its touch when it comes to creative and effective marketing, as it remains committed to standing out from the competition and delivering an exceptional customer experience.
Thriving despite challenges
As a startup, Circles.Life has faced its fair share of challenges over the years.
One of the biggest challenges was hiring. Without an established brand name, it was difficult for them to attract the right talent to join the company. However, the company learned that by building and developing the right culture and allowing their team members to drive their own successes, they were able to attract key talent.
Another challenge for Circles.Life was building trust. In a space dominated by well-established players, the startup had to focus on the quality of their product, their leadership team, and their values of respect, honesty, and transparency. This focus helped them to build trust with their customers and investors.
Juggling priorities was also a challenge for the founders. They quickly realised that they couldn’t be involved in everything all at once and implemented a better structure and workflow to ensure that bottlenecks were identified and eliminated.
When it came to fundraising, Circles.Life faced its own set of challenges. Abhisek once shared that it took more than 100 investor meetings before the first major round of investment materialised, with the investor indicating interest within just half an hour.
To convince investors, the founders focused on the long-term value proposition of their product and demonstrated this through concrete marketing findings from smaller pilots. By positioning the brand as a disruptor in the Singaporean telco space, they were able to successfully attract investment from firms like Warburg Pincus, Sequoia, EDBI, and Founders Fund.
The company continues to focus on delighting its customers with deeply-personalised digital services, and thanks to its strong investor relations and support, it has been able to achieve its goals and overcome the challenges it has faced along the way.
As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe, Circles.Life was faced with a challenge that impacted every aspect of the business. From marketing and branding to fulfilment, the company had to adapt to a world that was suddenly operating almost entirely online.
Instead of viewing the pandemic as a threat, Circles.Life saw it as an opportunity to strengthen its focus on customised services. Working closely with its in-house Research and Analytics teams, the company was able to assess the needs of its customer network and pivot towards digital life services that could improve the user experience.
It was during this time of crisis that the seeds for a new product, Jetpac, were planted. The travel subscription plan was developed with the help of quantitative experience data and has been steadily growing subscription numbers since its launch.
Successes over the years, locally and regionally
Circles.Life has seen tremendous success over the years as a mature startup, consistently breaking new ground and innovating.
One of the company’s most notable achievements was the launch of its 20GB for S$20 product, which helped fill the biggest gap in the telco market and demonstrated Circles.Life’s commitment to customer experience.
It’s no surprise then that their findings revealed that 24 per cent of the market has considered switching to Circles.Life when their existing mobile contracts expire. To date, Circles.Life has achieved a market share of seven per cent in Singapore.
Beyond Singapore, Circles.Life is present in five other markets, including Taiwan, Australia and Japan.
When entering new markets, Circles.Life adjusts its expansion and market entry strategies to address specific market nuances and identify existing problems. Some of the factors that it looks out for when considering expansion is a strong talent pool, manageable logistics, market limitations, and favourable regulations and restrictions.
The company also assesses its value add and opportunities within each market by weighing a customer’s lifetime value against the cost of acquiring that customer.
To support its expansion plans and business growth, Circles.Life launched the Circles-X R&D Centre in Singapore early last year. The centre aims to fuel the growth of Circles-X as the world’s premier SaaS platform for telcos, bring Singapore-developed technology to the world, nurture top-tier talent, and garner more research insights to bring exciting marketing campaigns to the company’s community.
For the year ahead, Circles.Life remains open to receiving feedback and listening to customers as it evolves to meet shifting digital product needs in Singapore and across its markets. It plans to go where there is demand and enter markets where it can provide the most value to customers.
With its efforts so far, Circles.Life has proven itself to be a true disruptor in the telecommunications industry. With a focus on innovation, customer satisfaction, and transparency, the company has set itself apart from the competition and established a strong, loyal customer base. As it continues to grow and expand, it is clear that Circles.Life will remain a key player in the telecom space for years to come.
Featured Image Credit: Circles.Life