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According to today’s TODAY newspaper (that name sure makes for strange sentences), Singaporean telcos are “taking the battle to WhatsApp”, by developing me-too apps that will feature VOIP, file sharing, instant messaging and a ton of other features that already exist in vastly more popular and pervasive forms. Facebook, or Google, anyone?

Here’s my take of what went down at the Telco Board Meeting where they decided on this hare-brained scheme to re-invent the wheel:

Of course, I generalise. But you get the drift.

Seriously, though. Telcos ought to be focusing on developing their core offerings, not try to diversify and spread themselves thin. Anyone remember SingTel’s Amped? An “unparallelled music experience”, they said. Sure, tell that to iTunes – laughing all the way to the bank to the tune of 25 billion song downloads. Even at US$0.99 a pop, that’s well over US$24 billion in revenue. Good luck fighting that one, SingTel.

In my opinion, Singapore Telcos have bigger problems to deal with. A quick look at SingTel, M1 and StarHub‘s respective Facebook pages’ “Posts by Others”  section is enough: tales of lousy network coverage, poor customer service, the list goes on.

Last time I checked, all revenue streams originate from paying customers. So how about working on pleasing your customers by being good at your basic business, rather than trying to catch the late train to appville – because its very clear to everyone that you’re just playing a me-too-catch-up game.

Ultimately, its not about the frills and thrills you offer your customers. We don’t want another WhatsApp – we’ve already got it. Together with Google Chat, Facebook Chat and Yahoo Messenger. Enough of the copy-catting. Let’s see some real customer-oriented innovation. Starting with your core business of making sure your customers are happy, and are connected exactly the way they want – not the way you want them to be connected.

EDIT (19 Feb 12, 1134h): Terence Lee weighs in with a much better researched and considered opinion than my own amateur musings. Worth a read: http://sgentrepreneurs.com/2013/02/18/singtel-starhubs-decision-to-develop-own-whatsapp-a-strategic-mistake/

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