At our update to investors last November, we outlined our plans for our business following a number of significant corporate decisions made last calendar year.

Being a challenger telco is part of those plans.

I’ve talked at length about the challenges far too many businesses still face in their interactions with their telco partners. It’s high time that the word “challenges” was replaced by “challengers” on behalf of those businesses across Australia that themselves seek to be challengers in their own industry sectors and markets.

As such, Superloop and Exetel are in business to support this group of organisations that themselves seek to create new solutions designed to break whatever the status quo might be in each of their markets and industries.  

We're a challenger organisation ourselves, and our objective in this is to provide secure, integrated communications infrastructure and services that make a difference to our business and wholesale customers in their aspirations to themselves be challengers in their own markets.

But what do they seek?

What defines a challenger?

And how is this different from whatever the status quo might be?

Companies of all sizes can be challengers

There are of course as many definitions as there are organisations. As an example, Superloop itself has around 15,000 SMB customers, ranging from sole traders all the way to medium sizedfirms and businesses providing complex services and products.

But there are traits and characteristics that I think are common to most companies that consider themselves as challengers.

One definition is from McKinsey, which defines challengers as digitally-native brands. It’s an interesting perspective, underpinned by the number of these types of companies that have attracted funding in recent years.

According to McKinsey, the online origins of digitally-native brands mean they have deep knowledge of their customers, and control of the data they have on their customers - what McKinsey calls the customer file. Across companies of all sizes, across multiple vertical markets, it's the ability to have access to real-time data, and to understand how to use that data when creating new types of customer experience, that makes the difference.

It’s therefore no surprise that we’re seeing something along these lines in Australia. In a recent example, a well-known Australian brand, far too established to be described as a digital native, nonetheless has consolidated its comms infrastructure so that its internal brand segmentation, and how that's presented to its customers, is simplified.

In other words, it’s challenging some of the inertia within its industry, and to a degree with its customers.

Other definitions include not following the herd.

And while it’s obvious that challengers can spring up from any number of directions, what’s less obvious is that challengers can operate as small companies in niche markets and still create disruption.

Challengers lean into danger

From the Superloop perspective, we see challengers as companies keen to lean into danger, doing so with some measure of the risks involved - as one of my colleagues puts it, akin to being a good boxer.

Challengers are prepared to consider a number of perspectives that count for the customer.

These include the way customer service teams engage with customers, and how those teams are supported with technology.

The underlying infrastructure has to be modern, resilient, flexible and fast. It’s no secret that this has been Superloop’s market differentiation since our foundation over six years ago, and it’s also no secret that our acquisition of Exetel mid-2021 was designed in part to build our user base, and therefore the services we can provide, very quickly.

The removal of complexity is paramount: having a modern network connected all the way back to multiple NBN POIs is part of that process, but so too is removing complexity around implementing new solutions or migrating customers from other providers.

One example is security. Superloop is able essentially to provide a “clean pipe” for SMB - security at the network level. That gives challengers a head start. Most security solutions require the business to have some degree of knowledge. They often need to configure separate devices, and to download specialist software to do so.

Of course, we offer incremental security options. But because our network is indeed modern, digital and resilient we have the ability to provide security from clean pipes to full- integrated SASE solutions from leaders like Palo Alto Networks.

Ultimately, challengers - whether digital natives, start-ups, SMBs or even large businesses rebuilding their business models - know that creating value for customers is what counts most, followed closely by accountability and ease of engagement.

If I had to summarise what being a challenger means, it would I think include the following:

  • They provide solutions that are fit for purpose and simple to manage
  • They provide customer outcomes
  • They can consider and work with different companies of different sizes. What’s more, they are prepared to do so
  • They remove complexity whenever possible

Challengers of course have a few advantages over incumbents, notably no legacy systems or business models, and no need to protect existing revenue streams. But the example I discussed earlier about the long-established customer assessing its future network needs so that it can remove complexity from its engagement with its customers, demonstrates that being a challenger business can often be as much a state of mind as anything else.

And of course, today's challengers will themselves be challenged tomorrow.