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Gadgets & Home Improvement

A change agent for fibre-broadband sales

Fledging Internet service provider MyRepublic does it differently from the big boys - it has independent agents on the ground who are backed with comprehensive online support.
The Straits Times - January 31, 2013
By: Tan Chong Yaw
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A change agent for fibre-broadband sales Potential agents can find out more about signing up for the MyRepublic Partner Program on the microsite (above). -- PHOTOS: TAN CHONG YAW, MYREPUBLIC

When Internet service provider MyRepublic entered the consumer broadband market, it was akin to David facing three Goliaths in the form of Singapore's three telcos: SingTel, StarHub and M1.

As the new kid on the block in December 2011, MyRepublic also had to contend with two smaller competitors: ViewQwest and SuperInternet.

All sold the same service: Fibre broadband packages, which gave consumers access to Singapore's ultra-fast, next-generation nationwide broadband network.

MyRepublic did not have any physical stores of its own nor the deep pockets to promote its services.

Said MyRepublic chief executive officer Malcolm Rodrigues: "We didn't have the same budgets that the telcos have to acquire customers with big ads.

"We needed more cost-effective methods."

MyRepublic turned to posts on local tech forums such as VR Zone and HardwareZone to spread the word. "People today do not make decisions such as buying a camera without going online to see what others are saying. It's the same with home broadband packages.

"We found that people could discover us through the forums," he said.

Learning from insurance companies

Next, instead of hiring more sales staff, the company took a leaf from insurance companies - build a pool of agents who earn commissions on packages they sell; agents also have an option to build teams.

"The good salesman can sell packages on his own while the good manager can run a team to sell on his behalf," said Mr Rodrigues.

Dubbed the MyRepublic Partner Program, it has its own microsite, or dedicated webpages, that is one click away from the company's home page under the tab "Become a Partner".

Training for agents is provided for free at the company's office at Vertex in Ubi. About 400 agents have been trained so far to sell MyRepublic broadband packages.

Today, the company has 10,000 customers.

One of the two units that the company rents at Vertex is designated as the partner centre where agents can book to conduct their own recruitment, training or demonstrations.

Last December, the company began offering new optional courses on network hardware, such as routers and HomePlug devices, which made use of existing home electrical wiring to connect devices to the Internet.

These courses, conducted by the various hardware vendors, arm the more tech-savvy agents with the skills to add to their commission by selling these products on top of a broadband plan to their customers.

Although the agent programme began only last June, more than a fifth of the sales are now brought in this way and Mr Rodrigues expects the numbers to rise. The rest of the sales are done during mega consumer electronics shows such as Comex, and via authorised re-sellers such as IT equipment stores.

One in four agents is tech-savvy and includes people who already sell tech products such as CCTVs, servers and firewalls. The rest include real estate and insurance salesmen and individuals who find that fibre packages are easy to sell to their friends and family.

Web portal for agents

Only two people in the 30-strong company are needed to manage the partner programme; the well-equipped agent portal makes it a one-stop help centre for agents.

The portal offers the latest marketing tools for agents. Commissions are automatically calculated. The latest promotions and agent incentives are also listed. Forms and brochures, such as Giro applications for customers and marketing materials, can be downloaded too.

Training material is also available, as are videos of training sessions.

All this online access just makes life easier for an agent.

As Mr Rodrigues revealed: "An agent can sign up a customer at the customer's home on a tablet."

The portal and the programme enable MyRepublic to extend personalised service through its agents and for the agents to profit from it.

"There are tech enthusiasts who will do an installation for free anyway. This just gives an avenue for them to make money," he added.

cytan@sph.com.sg

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