(Oct 16): On Oct 9, StarHub CEO Tan Tong Hai and Oversea-Chinese Banking Corp CEO Samuel Tsien came together to launch a $6 million partnership to offer more perks to a combined customer base of five million. Together, the companies plan to build an artificial intelligence (AI) lab, invest in the Internet of Things (IoT) and hire more talent. In the more immediate term, customers can now buy cable-TV packages or phones at OCBC’s orchardgateway branch. Over time, they will be able to do some banking at StarHub shops as well. And both parties are in talks with retail, transport, insurance, healthcare and real estate players to form similar partnerships.

If that sounds unusual, Tan points out that we are living in unusual times. “The banks are being disrupted, the telcos are also being disrupted,” he tells The Edge Singapore. “Each of us wants to innovate around our realm of specialty. So, this is where we start looking at it in an integrated manner, to offer more [services and products].”

StarHub certainly needs a new plan. The country’s second-largest telco is being pressured on all sides. Most texts — and many voice calls — are delivered over the internet today, using mobile apps such as WhatsApp and WeChat. And although StarHub sells mobile internet access, it has not been able to raise prices for that as usage goes up. StarHub also has the largest local pay-TV customer base. But this segment of its business is being challenged by streaming services such as Netflix and the growth of direct-to-consumer services such as NBA League Pass and Amazon Video.

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