Unified banks on value-added services


  • Business
  • Monday, 29 Sep 2003

BY JAMES CHONG

VALUED-ADDED services are the way to make money, according to Unified Communications Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Wong Tze Leng.  

Prepaid mobile phone cards, SMS and downloadable music or logos are some of the services that Wong meant and what Unified offers as a telecommunication solutions provider.  

Utilising cutting-edge technology and customised applications, Unified has helped application service providers (ASPs) and telecommunication companies such as DiGi, Telekom, Maxis, Singapore Telecom (SingTel), PLDT (Philippine Long Distance Telecom) and China Telecom deploy new services, open up new revenue streams, increase efficiency, penetrate markets faster and enhance profit potential.  

Wong Tze Leng

Ideas sell, especially in a relatively new field like mobile telecommunications application solutions, Wong said in an interview in Kuala Lumpur. Mobile telecom has been around for only 10-plus years while prepaid calling card is even more recent.  

Among the solutions offered by Unified are the MExLink family of messaging technology specific solutions, the UniLink family of general telco network products, and the MobiLink family of carrier grade mobile telecom products. 

The entrepreneur CEO is one who knows what he is talking about, especially in his chosen field, telecom solutions. After all, he did lead Unified Communications, which he also founded, to the first place in the Golden Bull Award 2003 – Malaysia top 100 SMEs.  

And looking at his enthusiasm, one can understand how he has steered his company with paid-up capital of RM5mil to chalk up an average annual turnover of RM60mil and be an industry leader. Unified has MSC status.  

Wong, a computer science engineer with BSc from Monash University, Melbourne, started as a software programmer in Federal Computer Services in the 80s. He moved to regional marketing in the then US company, Tele- communication Dialogic Corp, which was later acquired by Intel Corp into its communications division. Wong spent a few years doing marketing in China. All the experience will later stand him in good stead as he strikes out on his own.  

In 1998, Unified Communications was born. And the timing couldn’t be worse, said Wong. It was just about the time of the Asian currency crisis and many companies were shuddering under the shadow of the economic downturn.  

But the innovative Wong exploited a bad situation by jumping from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. With a starting cash of about RM100,000, he teamed up with several other intellectuals and operated from a Subang Jaya shophouse.  

“It was a good time to acquire key personnel cheaply,” Wong recalled. “In better times, they wouldn't have come so easily.”  

A few months later, Unified Communications Pte Ltd was set up in Singapore at King's Centre, doing projects with SingTel. Unified has to date two wholly-owned subsidiaries in Singapore and the Philippines, and a majority owned unit in Hong Kong. It has technical support offices in China and the United States (Los Angeles) and plans to set up one in Bangkok by year-end. 

The group is focusing on the Asia-Pacific region. In Malaysia, its workforce comprises 100 people and outside the country, there are 70 more. 

Unified’s main revenues are classified under three categories: 

·Voice communication solutions for telcos offering phone services, such as prepaid cards, making up 60% to 70%; 

·Mobile messaging solutions, such as SMS and MMS (20%); and 

·Interactive solutions. 

Wong said: “Presently prepaid card business comprises the bulk of our revenue, but I expect the second category, mobile messaging solutions, to grow strongly. Prepaid is popular as there’s no credit risk. With innovation entering the mobile phone industry and the onset of 3G (3rd generation), mobile data solutions are making a stronger impact. And prospects are good.” 

Unified invests about 10% of revenue, or about RM6mil, a year in R&D. Its annual expenditure is about RM20mil. On listing, Wong may list Unified, a wholly Malaysian owned firm, in Singapore, or even possibly go for a dual listing.  

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