CONVERGE CEO DENNIS UYO
Stronger networks, faster and smoother digital connectivity, and more responsive customer service—this is what Converge CEO Dennis Uy promises.
BY MAIELLE MONTAYRE
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAR CONCENGCO
The telecommunications industry in the Philippines is constantly faced with the many demands of the modern age. Previously dubbed as the “texting capital of the world,” the Philippines saw mobile phone subscriptions skyrocket while installed telephone lines were drastically reduced.
Now, with digital use on the rise, statistics show that Filipinos rank higher than their Asian counterparts in terms of time spent online. With many staying home for work and schooling due to health and safety concerns, the demand for high-speed internet access is at the forefront today. This is the market which Dennis Anthony Uy’s Converge seeks to dominate as a leader in pure end-to-end fiber internet service.
A SINGLE FOCUS
Converge ICT Solutions, Inc., commonly referred to as Converge, was founded in 2007 by Dennis Anthony H. Uy, and his wife, Maria Grace Y. Uy. Converge is affiliated with ComClark Network and Technology Corporation, which Uy also founded in Pampanga in 1996.
Aside from being the founders of Converge, Uy also holds the position of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Executive Director of Converge, while his wife serves as President of Converge.
This power couple—an engineer and a CPA—work to balance each other out in the operations of their technology company. “I’m an engineer so I like things done swiftly, but I lack the controls. She, on the other hand, as a CPA, is very systematic with everything. So, we balance out each other,” says the self-confessed tech guy with a degree in Electrical Engineering. “It’s a perfect combination. I provide the vision and she operationalizes it with the proper process and control systems. I handle all the tech, while she does all the finance. So, we each have our own specializations,” Uy adds.
In 2009, Converge was granted a congressional franchise to operate as a telecommunications company. In 2012, Converge focused on broadband operations, providing high-speed broadband to Filipino households and businesses. In 2019, Converge successfully secured a $225 million investment from Warburg Pincus, a private equity firm, in order to fund its full-fiber optics network.
Fiber-optic internet is the faster, more reliable, and more advanced solution to data transfer than the antiquated copper-based Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) and cable internet. Since then, Converge has grown to make a name for itself as the fastest end-to-end fiber internet provider in the Philippines.
“That is my competitive edge in this business. I have a single-minded focus,” Uy says. “I only have one product— fiber broadband. While other competitors have wireless mobile, landline, wireless fixed and prepaid, in my case, it is single-focus so I am able to bring the new technology to the consumer right away.”
Converge offers its premium fiber internet to residences, businesses, and other enterprises. Whatever the name— FiberX for the home, iBiz for the office, and other digital services—the fact remains that Converge provides affordable and fast connection with unlimited bandwidth and quick installation. “The good thing about the fixed line is the single-port design infrastructure. This allows a single house to have fast, reliable, and sufficient connectivity for several users. Unlike wireless connections that can get congested and slowed down because of the shared signal,” Uy adds.
At the end of 2020, Converge has more than doubled its fiber network to over 55,000 kilometers from the previous year, making high-speed broadband internet available to more areas in the country. With the growing demand for internet services, their residential subscriber base doubled during the year, reaching approximately 1,038,000 subscribers by December 2020.
Using the greenfield approach, Uy aims to tap the unserved and underserved areas of the country. “A lot of the areas that we have gone to have never been connected with fiber. Never. At all,” he says. “As of today, 90% of our new subscribers are first-time users. So, you can see the blue ocean market that we are penetrating,” he adds.
As a result of the 2020 worldwide global pandemic, Converge more than quintupled its installations. For this reason, Converge reached over a million subscribers by the end of the year. However this surge in demand was not without its challenges.
“Usually, we had around 20,000 to 30,000 [installations] monthly. But because of the pandemic, we were doing approximately 100,000 installations a month. Biglang nag-times five. We had to activate the manpower, logistics, and call centers to address the sudden surge in demand. This was even more difficult because of the lockdown and everyone was working off-site. But the growth was there, so we trained our staff, ordered a fleet of vehicles, and activated more call centers as fast as we could. We had our challenges, but we were able to address the concerns as quickly as we could,” Uy explains.
Aside from addressing the sudden 500% growth in operations, Converge likewise had to comply with government and health regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since Converge is in the broadband business, the company got the exemption from the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), the government body deciding on COVID-19 protocols, to continue operations.
Uy then worked doubly hard to get approval to open the business centers in order to address the surging demand. Converge implemented social distancing and an appointment-based system in the business centers. The applications, billing, and the services were in full-swing.
“In the business centers, people could not just walk in. So, we implemented an appointment-based system to be able to maintain the health protocols and still attend to our customers,” Uy shared.
The call center was integral for the business to run smoothly. So Converge converted offices into a stay-in set up. Agents were given dormitories and meals for the whole day while they were required to live in the premises for an extended period. Converge also opened multiple sites to address the social distancing requirements as well as the demand.
The next issue was public transport. Converge then purchased buses in order to provide safe transportation for the employees. A set-up of pick-up points and schedules were put in place.
“(For our workers), we had to provide safe transportation for them. In the office, they had to observe social distancing. From the previous 100% office capacity, we could only do 30%,” Uy recounts. “So, we immediately put measures in place to improve our operations. There were so many things, and since March, we did all those things, and we were able to overcome our challenges.”
In response to the needs of their customers, Converge also improved the backend of their operations. “Because the scale of service is expanding, our backend had to keep up, especially our OSS (Operations Support System) and BSS (Business Support System).”
The Converge CEO also ensures daily monitoring of business operations in real-time in order to make sound management decisions.
Converge practices a proactive response in its operations and installations. With multiple sites all over the country, Converge implements a logistical system whereby the crew and available resources are made available based on the number of ports and the customer-base per area.
“Aside from fast installation, we have a proactive support system for our customers” Uy remarks. “In times when our ports are full, we need to augment and put proactive maintenance. If there are customer requests for transfers, upgrades, cut lines even fires—we are there within the locality,” he adds, enumerating the different scenarios that may arise. “Instead of waiting for the customers to call to report and issue, which is reactive, we address the issues immediately, so they don’t need to call, and the backend is flawless.”
This proactive, rather than reactive, approach stems from Uy’s experiences in the province. In this manner, a more localized approach yields greater effectivity and efficiency. “Never mind the need to increase manpower, the bottom line is customer satisfaction,” he firmly declares. Converge likewise addresses all their growing concerns, particularly by having customer care services taken in-house rather than outsourcing to third parties. “We’re a technology company, and as we want to better service our customers, we also want to be able to track our performance.”
This approach has yielded positive results after Converge reached its goal of a single-digit rate of drop calls. Previously, they were at 15% rate. Now, the IT leader has reached 9%.
“We are aiming for 6-7% in drop calls. Konti nalang,” Uy remarks with a smile. “We also enhanced our digital platform systems in addressing customer issues on social media. We are investing substantially to upgrade our customer relationship management (CRM). So we are confident that no matter what platform the customer tries to reach—email, phone calls, social media, Viber, WhatApp—we are able to address them. We need to integrate whatever channels are available to the customer,” he narrates. Technology innovation is a priority of Converge’s thrust in customer care with P20 million dedicated to customer support.
A SIMPLE PLAN
“I want to deliver the best in the field of ICT, especially the infrastructure highway, in order to serve our consumers better,” Uy pronounces. He admits that in terms of infrastructure, the Philippines lags behind other countries. “I envision to bring first world infrastructure and connectivity to Filipino consumers. The Philippines deserves the same quality and highspeed connection as the other countries such as Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong. We have already started this and we will work tirelessly to see that this vision becomes reality.”
“Filipinos are hungry for fast and reliable internet connection. I am happy if I am able to deliver that to everyone,” he adds. And so, Converge endeavors to promote their fiber revolution to 55% of the projected 24 million households by 2025. Currently, the Philippines is forecasted to have 21.8 million households by 2021. “Being the technology provider, I want to fulfill the needs of the individual consumer and they deserve superior service,” Uy further explains. The tech CEO targets only the A, B, C, and C-1 income class rather than the D and E market, which is a prepaid market.
Referring to the market as the blue ocean, Uy insists that monopolizing the entire market is impossible and competition is encouraged. “The more players you have, the more you can help people. My goal is simple—get one-third of the pie and make those customers happy. If I’m able to do that, I have reached my goal.”
For Uy, this number is conservative when compared to the underserved and unserved Filipinos in the country. “It’s very achievable. As of today, we have 1 million [customers] already. If we install 1.5 million new ports every year, that’s almost 7.5 million in five years,” Uy explains enthusiastically. “The math is there. It’s definitely achievable.”
Fresh from its successful Initial Public Offering (IPO), Converge is now one of the top 10 IPO companies in the Philippines. The decision to go public has also brought about a major culture change within Converge. “We have to be transparent and apply good governance because we are now a public company,” Uy says.
There are now many independent and audit mechanisms in place to deliver investor trust. “It’s very important we have systematic direction, process, and vision approved by the entire board. We report to the board and are liable to the many investors. The pressure to meet targets is there. We cannot promise a number and fail to deliver. We had to instill discipline and professionalism while maintaining our trail-blazing ways,” he continues.
Converge boasts of having one of the best IPO in the history of the Philippines. This was because Converge prepared its auditing, tax, and strict compliance with minimum requirements several years before going public. “The foreign investors trust us because of the growth we showed and the business opportunity. In fact, we have doubled the size of the IPO value,” Uy says.
As Converge moves forward with its fiber revolution, Uy continues to partner and collaborate with international providers and multinational corporations. “I’m the pioneering founder of the FTTH (Fiber to the Home) Council AsiaPacific. I see to it that I can bring these technologies to share with everyone. Sharing best practices with your peers benefits everyone,” Uy proudly declares.
“In 2018, I brought the whole conference of the FTTH Council to Manila with 600 international delegates. Through this collaboration with vendors, technology providers, and operators all over the world, we were able to pool our resources and talents. We shared best practices in regulations, government policies, and other success metrics. These are part of our advocacies and my legacy.” And it’s a legacy the country too, is excited to see.