Axiata Digital Services’ No. 1 person Mohd Khairil Abdullah embodies the values Axiata Digital Services lives by and which have helped the company grow its business by 11 times since its formation in 2012 – to disrupt, and to be humble and collaborate.
He tore down the walls of his office and turned it into a lounge cum rec room cum meeting area complete with sofas, PlayStation console and mini-fridge stocked with Magnum ice-cream bars. Khairil then moved to the open floor where most of his staff sit and took a nondescript corner on a long meeting table that is shared with his other team-mates.
“Since everyone sits around me, I can just stand up and ask for updates and input from my officers and it’s so much more productive, as it’s real-time collaboration.”
Fresh graduates who wish to join Axiata Digital Services should acquaint themselves with these values. Unlike other firms that look at disruption as something that has to be managed and dealt with, Axiata Digital Services embraces the value.
For instance, the company is working on new technology that is “breaking” the way auto insurance firms calculate premiums for drivers in the region. A SIM-card-type technology installed in the car collects information on an individual driver’s behaviour, whether he is reckless or safe, explains Khairil. That information can then be used to calculate the premium for the driver instead of relying on the traditional statistical model where young and older drivers are charged a higher premium because statistically, they are likely to get into an accident. This “disruption” could lead to new ways in which insurance premiums are priced, says Khairil.
“We want people who are bold and a bit crazy. Our dream is to be an USD1 billion company by 2020 and we are probably going to achieve that. And to think that back when we were formed, we were worth only USD20 million.”
Boldness and craziness get translated into the firm’s next value, which is to act now or roughly speaking, to launch an initiative or product as soon as it is finished. This breaks with the practice of doing market research and customer surveys first to fine-tune a product.
For example, Axiata’s “Twig” service that rewards smartphone users with points if they clicked on ads. The points can then be used to buy more mobile airtime. “We now put the product up there, get people to sign up to it, and observe how people use and interact with it in real time. The first few days, we got only 75 people but the number grew and now you have hundreds of data points, which give you feedback on your product.”
The beauty of it, Khairil says, is that it slashes the amount of money needed to launch a product. A typical USD5 million spent on research and market analysis is now not required.
Axiata Digital Services believes that its employees should “have fun and be good”, as the saying goes, happy workers are productive workers. Aside from the PlayStation and ice-cream, the company also has ping pong tables, foosball tables and hoverboards scattered throughout its offices. “To attract millennials, you need to have these things because to get creativity from them, they need an outlet. It helps amplify creativity,” says Khairil.