@Howard Toh and I recently had the chance to have a chat with the StarHub CEO, Peter Kaliaropoulos (More affectionately known as @Peter K to StarHubbers)! We collated some hot questions from members of the GreenR Community, and Peter answered them candidly with us.
Curious to know how the CEO of StarHub is like on his downtime? Or his secret aspirations as a TV star perhaps? Here’s the Q and A with Peter!
1. What does a typical weekend look like for you?
As a senior executive unfortunately, I don’t have a decent balance in my life. I use Saturdays to catch up with workload, and since there’s hardly anyone in the office, it’s quality time to think and reflect on some complex corporate issues. In the evening, I catch up with friends and relax over a meal.
Sunday is a personal “me” day. I do all sorts of crazy things — I go for a three-hour walk, I’ll travel out of Singapore over the weekend sometimes. I’ll fly out on Friday night and come back 5:00 a.m. on Monday morning and back to the office. So, Sundays are meant for personal, quality time and I hardly devote any serious time on business matters, unless I receive a customer complaint.
I enjoy reading books and hiking. I enjoy meeting new people, going to art galleries, doing different things that I don’t do Monday to Saturday. I try to make at least one day in my week a different experience.
2. The StarHub office has splashes of green everywhere. What does the colour green
remind you of?
To me, the colour green is about life. When I look at it, the first thing in my mind that I associate it with is living - vitality and growth; all the positive things in nature. I do have a very warm spot for nature, but I'm not good at protecting it. I think all of us needs to try harder on that especially me.
If you think of the world thousands and thousands of years ago, how we evolved from nature - it wasn't people first, nature second. It was nature first, followed by people or animals second, I think…. I love plants, flowers, greenery… I love it when it rains, because water helps everything grow. I love the colour green because it represents life and growth.
3. People face all sorts of challenges every day. Everyone has their own way of finding
their creative oasis; some do yoga, some play music, some paint, some do sports. What’s your secret go-to activity when you need to find deep creative inspiration to tackle problems or issues.
Reading a good book! A few pages of a good book give me inspiration and takes me into a different world. So, you know, sometimes if I need a little bit of time to switch off from everything, I'll just start reading something. So, when I have a problem, I don't try and solve the problem immediately — I try and switch my mind to something completely different and then come back to the problem. I find that works for me…
4. Who's been your biggest influence in your life?
My parents and grandparents influenced me a lot in my life because I come from a society where we respect and learn from elders and their experience. But that was before the digital era. Once you start attending high school and University, you tend to let other things influence you.
There were a few people that had influenced me in my life, and one of them was Nelson Mandela, who was locked up in jail for 20 years in South Africa. I think the world needs more people like him. Instead of people putting up fences, we need more people who are building bridges.
I think we should allow ourselves to be influenced by a few role models rather than just one. We should be listening to other people and you know, even the things we don't want to hear, we should at least know what's being said, and then make an informed judgement.
5. What's the best professional advice you've ever been given?
“There's no such thing as luck, there's only hard work.”
That was shared with me by a boss whom I worked for many, many years ago. He said few people on the planet are very gifted, and some are just lucky. But you don't depend on luck, you just keep working hard at it….
6. If your competitors from the industry are personified as one giant staring at you across
the street but if you could walk up at it and say one thing to it, what would that statement be?
“Get smarter.” Competition is good, but silly competition destroys things.
7. StarHub is no stranger to bringing entertainment to the masses. If you could have your
own TV show, what would it be about?
I like Seinfeld! There’s a lot of great shows over the years — Friends and other comedy, but I think Seinfeld was a type of comedy about common things in life that I can relate to. There are a lot of day-to-day conversations that happened in the show, and you laughed your head off at those but there are some key messages to it.
8. You were here 20 years ago when StarHub started and you’re back here 20 years
later. Does it feel different being in StarHub now as compared to then?
Yes, it does, and if anybody who says otherwise, is lying. 20 years ago, we were the hottest company in Singapore, we couldn’t do anything wrong, employees wanted to work for us, we were the new benchmark, we took on the Goliath, and we were the upstart. We used different business models, we did great things for customers, and we were challenging the establishment. We were a startup, and our main competitor was a very big company. We did have the backing of international companies, but we were challenging the norm then. We were coming up with new rules, such as introducing free incoming calls and so on.
But 20 years later, naturally the company has matured, and we have tougher competition in the marketplace. So yes, we're a mature company now. We're not a teenager anymore and we need to act smarter every day. StarHub also grew in the last 20 years because the population of Singapore doubled. If the population of Singapore stayed at 2.9 million as in 20 years ago, we may not have been the company we are today.
So yes, 20 years later, we're a mature company in a very highly penetrated market and the operating environment changed dramatically. However, today we have a great brand, millions of customers, dedicated employees and supportive shareholders. We have also learned many competitive lessons, are better prepared to fight competition and serve our customers better. We are also still very passionate about our “challenger spirit.”
9. We heard a quote recently where you said about how 4G changed lives and how 5G can change societies, with StarHub closely at the heart of these new technologies. Does it ever become daunting for you as the frequent changes in the industry becomes increasingly more dramatic, or it is more of an exciting journey to always be at the forefront of “what’s next”?
Well, if it was daunting, I wouldn't be doing this job! [Laughter]
I think the opportunity to transform, to change, to improve is exciting. Yes, there's a lot of complexity in technology, but at the end of the day, technology will have an impact. For example, I have elderly parents 7000 kilometres away. If I can use technology to be close to them every day, isn't that a wonderful thing? I'm more excited about how we can use all such technological capability and complexity to improve the way people live and enjoy their lives more and more.
10. You mentioned before where it comes to retaining customers, customer service and customer experience is paramount, and how customer experience is centric to the business. What’s your earliest memory of a good customer experience and do you think the definition of good customer experience changes over time?
I worked in hospitality years ago and I remembered this trainer who told us a story where once, at 5:00 a.m. a hotel guest rang up Concierge and said his shoelaces are broken and if they could find him another as replacement. And the answer to the customer should be “Yes! we can do it.” And that story got stuck at the back of my mind. You can’t simply say no to a customer, but what you can do is listen and explain that we will go the extra mile for you. Obviously, nobody was selling shoelaces at 5:00 a.m. but the customer realized that someone cares for his problem and will be addressed at the earliest…
Usually, people become heroes for doing something outside the process which a customer values. I think that taking care of customer issues and creating good customer experiences is crucial. However, the best customer experience is when everything works out smoothly for the customer at the point of purchase and delivery. My definition of a good customer service means less irate customers in the first place, less opportunities to fix a problem - because the problem has been prevented. That's the ideal we aim for.
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