The Banter: An Interview with Benjamin Choo, Head of Discover by Circles.Life
It’s getting harder and harder for new businesses to get noticed as the startup market grows increasingly crowded as the years go by. And for Discover by local telco Circles.Life, described as a ‘startup within a startup’ by its Head, Benjamin Choo, that’s an even bigger uphill climb for the team, as they strive to make their presence known and deliver a value-added user experience to all.
To summarise what Discover is, it’s essentially a segment of the Circles.Life mobile app that offers users an experience beyond telco functionality. Like its name suggests, Discover is all about introducing users to events they might enjoy, specially curated using an engine that recommends activities from the company’s list of collaborators and vendors, from movies to live events.
While at first Discover may sound derivative of all-in-one apps such as Grab, it aims to differentiate itself by working directly with partners to make purchases that much easier, along with hosting their own events. “We wanted to go beyond simply recommending events, and connect users directly with them,” says Benjamin. “Take for example how we’ve partnered up with SISTIC, not just to recommend events on their platform to users, but to allow them to even purchase tickets to these events via our app, in as few as five clicks.”
Discover was launched some time ago, but its first major event only came about earlier in April, where they hosted a live music event featuring buskers performing online. “What kickstarted this initiative was when we realised how buskers couldn’t perform during the COVID-19 period, and we thought we could help out by hosting a performance by them online. That was a success, and from there, we decided to make it a regular thing, with music and comedy events organised by us,” says Benjamin.
Now, Discover has launched music events under the title Jam with Discover, stand-up comedy events under the title Laugh with Discover, along with workshops and classes under Discover Fun, and even a food delivery service under Discover Food. For Jam with Discover, in July, Discover hosted a Mandopop night with Rao Zi Jie (from NOC), Wei Lun (formerly from TSL) and Wilson Wong (from Cold Cut Duo), and an indie music night featuring LEW and Joie Tan. Under Laugh with Discover, the team has so far hosted local comedians such as Sam See, Jinx Yeo, Jacky Ng, Prem John, Siraj Aziz, Isaac Tay, Qamarul Haziq, and Rishi Budhrani (August).
“Right now it’s a lot of experimentation and figuring out what ideas work or don’t,” says Benjamin. “We’re trying to reach out to a more diverse user base, and the Discover team has been doing more research on potential activities to curate and create interesting content for users. We’re also engaging users with various methods, such as giveaways for telco credits and movie tickets, and it’s really all about value-adding the user experience.”
Regarding Discover’s online performances, they’ve made the unique decision to keep these events ticketed, unlike how other creators tend to do it for free. This poses a conundrum, as users are now used to free content, and are likely less willing to fork out money for something they may otherwise be able to watch without spending a single cent.
“We’re not doing this for profit, but because we really want to use what we earn to give back to the people we’re working with, and continue creating new content for users,” says Benjamin. “There’s certainly a lot of competition, so it’s hard to push online ticketed events. So to counter that, we engage either with artists who have a strong following and are willing to push the event to their fans, or with artists who don’t really do streams, whether on their own or with bigger companies who can put it out for free, so that it becomes content that’s more exclusive and unique.”
“At the heart of Discover is a goal that’s in line with Circles.Life’s: to empower our users, and make sure that they know their feedback is being heard and shows in the content we put out,” adds Benjamin. “A lot of our ideas are launched thanks to having conversations with people, and understanding their needs to bring them the best experience we can offer them.”
“We may not have as much clout as the bigger telcos that have been here for longer than us, but I think where we shine is our dedication to customer service, and winning over a lot of our users with that. It’s really about reaching out more, seeing how we can give users a say on what content and campaigns we put out, and as such, offer them a personalised experience in browsing and buying events.”
Discover can be found in the Circles.Life app, available from both the Apple Store and Google Play Store. It can be accessed regardless of whether the user is a Circles.Life subscriber or not. For more information, visit their website here