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Calling all stations

Phone card company takes aim at Skype, hopes to corner Asean migrant market

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Social media has proved a low-cost but highly-effective tool for a small phone card company, Easy System Telecom, which is now aiming to challenge the global calling message services LINE and Skype. 

The design of the latest Easy international calling card represent parents and children.

Easy System Telecom managing director Somsak Padhana-anek noted that the company is now developing a mobile application that can be used for calling Thailand at a low price.

"As 3G has become available, VoIP technology is getting better, and users are likely to buy a service package, so the mobile app becomes a part of the package. We are competing with LINE and Skype and our service will be cheaper than Skype," Somsak said, adding that the application will be able to run on iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

The app's charging system will be based on US dollars and will be available everywhere in the world.

"We have to promote this in the global market, and we have to do Pinterest, Instagram and we expect to have around one million downloads. This will be the first Thai app that focuses on the overseas market," he said.

In Thailand, about 10% of the population use international calling services. The younger generations are likely to use mobile applications and texting, while the older generations and those who prefer calling are the target group of Easy card.

Having been in the international calling card service for five years, Easy has seen brand loyalty among Cambodian and Myanmar customers.

International calling card for Cambodian users.

The government's 300 baht minimum wage policy has boosted the number of foreign labourers, especially in Bangkok and suburban areas, and it has lead the calling card use to grow 15-20%.

Migrant workers from Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and India are the key target group of Easy card.

Compared to international calling services that uses the code 004, 005 and 006, Somsak said Easy's service is 50% cheaper. A call from Thailand to Vietnam, for example, incurs a fee of 5.50-6 baht per minute on most services, while Easy charges 2 baht.

Easy System has a dealer network for each of the popular customer bases. Beside having phone cards that are customised to each nation, the call centre also serves Cambodian and Myanmar users.

"Now, we are going to do specialised segmentation of the Myanmar people to include Mon, Karen and the minority groups," said Somsak, adding that he expects the calling card market for foreign labourers to increase.

Typically, the calling fee from Thailand to Myanmar is 13-14 baht per minute, although since Myanmar has begun to open up the service has been down to 10 baht. Easy's offering is 7.50 baht. Over next few years, if the cost can come down to 2 baht as planned, it will encourage the market tremendously. Easy System has also been adopting social media to promote its brand.

"We could not invest in traditional advertising and the budget spent on social media is very low compared to conventional media, which helps us offer the service fee at a low price," he said.

He noted that the calling fee to Europe is down to 2-3 baht per minute from 10 baht earlier, and .50 baht for calling America, Singapore and Hong Kong.

He pointed out that Thailand is the strongest in terms of content, while neighbouring countries are just starting out. Easy System also provides content in Cambodian and Myanmar languages, such as ring tones, horoscopes and soccer reports.

Myanmar has a high potential for the business owing to the size of the market. Easy System has studied the market in that country and plans to expand the content to the Myanmar language.

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