Breaking Travel News

Breaking Travel News interview: Jef Ong, chief executive, Flexiroam

Breaking Travel News interview: Jef Ong, chief executive, Flexiroam

Flexiroam is a telecommunications company offering services internationally, providing a range of products allowing customers to remain connected abroad without attracting significant connection fees or tariffs.

Here Breaking Travel News editor Chris O’Toole sits down with founder and chief executive to discuss the company, its ambitions, and a recent nomination at the World Travel Awards.

Breaking Travel News: Could we perhaps begin with a brief overview of Flexiroam? What does the company offer travellers in Australasia and around the world?

Jef Ong: Put simply, Flexiroam offers budget international roaming services for travellers.

We wanted to address the issue of “bill shock” for travellers.

While regulated and capped roaming environments occur within Europe, there has yet to be any such convention established in the Asia Pacific.

With roaming costs remaining excessive in the region and due to the increase in budget travel, we wanted to offer travellers better roaming products and services, so they’re not hamstrung by big bills on their return home.

As such, we offer our customers a number of different services and are planning more down the track, which will make roaming easier than ever before, as well as significantly cheaper.

In fact, we have already enabled over 300,000 people to save a total of more than A$23 million!

BTN: I understand Flexiroam’s products do not require subscribers to have internet connection to make and receive calls, while they also allow traveller to retain his or her primary mobile number. These must be tremendous advantages in a competitive market place?

JO: Yes, they are tremendous advantages and we intend to build further capabilities into our portfolio to add even more value for travellers.

The beauty of Flexiroam is the fact that you don’t need to change your number.

We link your existing number to any overseas local SIM card to make and receive calls abroad without paying roaming charges.

We also have a Flexiroam SIM, which can be used in over 150 countries, eliminating the need to buy multiple local SIMs if you travel frequently.

By linking your number to one of these SIMs it means when friends, family or colleagues call you, they will have no idea you’re overseas.

They will get the local rate and so will you, saving travellers millions in the process.

In the near future, we will have an even more comprehensive solution for frequent flyers.

We are currently beta testing our Roam8 app.

The app allows users to own multiple international numbers, in one application, eliminating the need for international roaming and IDD calls.

It enables users to call any phone on any global network without worrying about the charges.

Overseas contacts can reach the user at the local number stored within the application, only paying the local rate.

It will make any call a local call, so keep watching this space.

BTN: You founded the company originally; what was the motivation behind the product, and where did the idea come from?

JO: The reason I founded Flexiroam was to end mobile roaming.

In my previous life (before Flexiroam), I was travelling a lot around Asia and the rest of the world.

Each time I went abroad, I’d be stung by a huge phone bill as I would need to roam a lot.

I think what shocked me the most was the fact that you not only got charged for making calls overseas but also receiving them and this was often more expensive than making a call!

Paying thousands on your phone bill but only hundreds on plane tickets just didn’t make sense to me.

Coupled with the fact, the charges were hidden from plain site and I had a real urge to shake things up.

Other than turning off the phone to avoid roaming charges, I thought there must be an affordable alternative to use international roaming while travelling.

In March 2011, Flexiroam was launched.

Our mission was to make travellers happy, as they deserve to stay connected with friends, family and business counterparts without worrying about exorbitant phone bills.

We now have over 300,000 happy customers and we’re continuing to improve our products and services to help end bill shock.

BTN: Flexiroam has just achieved flotation on the Australia Stock Exchange. What advantages does this confer on the organisation?

JO: By floating on the ASX, we are able to offer our customers new roaming services, as well as enable us to cover more destinations.

We listed as we needed access to capital for continued geographic and product expansion.

We couldn’t just keep our product set for ourselves and are now looking to increase our presence in Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Thailand, India and China.

In addition to Roam8, which I mentioned earlier, we also have a couple more new products that we wanted to release over the next couple of quarters.

By having greater capital, we have been able to speed up this process.

BTN: Flexiroam is nominated as Asia’s Leading Travel Technology Provider at the upcoming World Travel Awards Asia & Australasia Gala Ceremony. How does it feel to be recognised in this way?

JO: It’s great that we have been recognised in this way and a real testament to everything the team has achieved in such a short space of time.

We want to be the leading roaming provider in the Asia Pacific market, and this goes some way to suggest we’re getting there.

We’ve grown our subscriber base substantially over the last three years and by winning this award, not only does it show what we have achieved but it will also help us with where we are going.

In a world with less geographic boundaries than ever before, thanks to the internet and mobile devices, we want customers to be able to travel anywhere and pay the local rate.

We want to eradicate roaming for travellers and I think our nomination shows we are doing that.