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Digi talks customer base in tight market

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Andrey Shin (Left), CEO of DTV Star Co Ltd, and Chief Marketing Officer Maria Teplukhina, sit at the company’s office in Phnom Penh this week.

In a country where the online penetration is less than 1 percent of 14 million people, Cambodia’s internet service providers fight over a very small pie.

So to guarantee itself a piece, Digi has emphasised low prices and the younger demographic. Compared to rivals, Digi aims to charge less for more.

Some providers’ customers pay US$35 a month for unlimited data usage at 128 kilobits per second, while Digi’s clientele can get 1,024 kbps for $12, though they’re capped at 5 gigabytes total for the month.

A low pricing strategy is essential in a country where most of the population is poor and has first accessed the web via mobile phone, according to Digi officials.

“It’s very, very hard to start to use the internet by the computer so we try to make their life easy and to help them,” said Chief Marketing Officer Maria Teplukhina.

At the same time, those prices also exist to attract Phnom Penh’s youth. Some 70 percent of the firms’ customers have never before had a home connection, and are overwhelmingly young people, she said.

In addition, Digi has packaged a number of services geared toward the youth segment, including access to certain social networking and local sites without it subtracting from a customer’s data-usage limits.

“It is not magic” that the firm can offer these services at low prices, Chief Executive Officer Andrey Shin said. “We are in the same position as our competitors.”

Digi is operated by DTV Star Co Ltd, which is owned by Kazakh investors.

The company’s plan since its 2008 inception has been to invest in infrastructure and build a customer base, even if at the expense of profits, Shin said. As the market grows, he is counting on profits to rise.

The firm declined to reveal its profits or current subscriber base. But Shin did say the current number of customers is “not enough to make huge money.”

Digi presently operates only in Phnom Penh city, but intends to expand into Battambang, Siem Reap, Kampong Cham and other areas “definitely in the next year,” Tepulkhina said.

The firm is also open to acquiring a competitor or being acquired itself, depending on the situation.

“We’re open for any discussion, any opportunity that could improve our business and extend and make it bigger, if it has business sense,” Shin said.

He said Digi has not given up on its hopes of bringing customers Internet Protocol television.

In 2009, a Ministry of Post and Telecommunications licence was overridden by a monopoly licence granted to local cable company PPCTV by the Ministry of Information.

Digi’s appeals went unheeded, leaving the company to wait until PPCTV’s licence expires. Shin stated he would apply again at that time. “We suspended this situation for a while,” he said.

PPCTV did not respond to a request for comment, while Information Minister Khieu Kanharith could not be reached yesterday.

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