Henry Abes, President and CEO of NOW Corporation, has always had a fondness for startups. However, he joined an established player in the Philippines technology sector, NOW Corporation, in 2021 – attracted by plans to roll out 5G wireless technology.
“We ventured into pioneering technologies like satellite broadband as well as 4G, WiMAX,” Henry says of his experiences over the past three decades in the sector. “Now we’re looking at 5G as a solid platform to influence and change the lives of our population here in the Philippines. That really interested me.”
NOW Corporation is a publicly traded telecommunications, media and technology company headquartered in Makati, Philippines. The company has traditionally focused on providing broadband services to business customers.
It has built a reliable point-to-point and point-to-multi-point wireless broadband infrastructure that covers metropolitan Manila and is expanding its hubs to the business corridors of Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan, and Zambales in the north and the Calabarzon areas in the south. It is also gearing up to pilot 5G wireless connectivity solutions to enterprises in targeted areas by early next year.
Henry saw joining NOW Corporation as “coming full circle” as he had worked for 15 years in the 1990s and 2000s with the company Founder and Chair, Mel V Velarde, and described their relationship as “like family”.
“Large companies have always been ready for a pandemic-like situation. They have the means to do that but enabling 99 per cent of the enterprises here in the field, which comprises the SME population, that is an opportunity that we should look into.”
He started his career with Sky Cable in sales – rising to lead the department during his eight years there – and significantly built the company’s subscriber base to 300,000 accounts prior to his departure in 1998. It was there that he developed and learned the fundamentals of servant leadership; leading 250 account managers and engineers in daily sales and installation activities, which propelled the company to exponential growth.
Henry briefly retired in 2005, putting his efforts into building the country’s first basketball portal and online sports community, which developed and maintained websites for various leagues nationwide.
Henry also published a weekly basketball magazine and launched a weekly exclusive radio and TV hoops program in the late 2000s. “Basketball and sports in general are really my passion,” he says.
Business and startups were passions too. But he joined NOW Corporation at an especially challenging time during the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic. He called it, “tough times”, but also “a reset for us”, along with many other companies. “We have not really experienced any exponential growth yet, but it has really enabled us to view the landscape on a different scale,” he says.
The changing landscape caused a shift in NOW Corporation’s broadband business as people worked at home rather than in the offices served by the company. Still, Henry charted a path for the company to “sustain its foothold on the enterprise segment” and “prepare ourselves for when the economy opens up, that’s the time that we should be ready to attack the market again and be ready”.
Henry also launched ventures with technology companies to provide information, communications and technology solutions (ICT), which include enterprise resource planning and information technology consulting for small and medium firms. The move into technology solutions responded to the changing landscape, recognising small and medium enterprises (SME) would require assistance adapting to the pandemic.
“Large companies have always been ready for a pandemic-like situation,” Henry says. “They have the means to do that but enabling 99 per cent of the enterprises here in the field, which comprises the SME population, that is an opportunity we should look into.”
The pandemic forced innovation and provided opportunities for improvement. “It was a perfect time for us to restudy all our processes to see if they were still working,” Henry says. “So innovation with digital transformation is crucial at this point.” Those innovations, he says, emphasised “operational efficiency”, along with “cutting unnecessary costs” and “having better or excellent customer experience with our clients”.
“The speed of trust and the speed of execution rely on that kind of relationship and bond you have with your management team and also with your network of employees.”
Henry also spoke of the importance of employee satisfaction, which was difficult during the pandemic without face-to-face contact. “The speed of trust and the speed of execution rely on that kind of relationship and bond you have with your management team and also with your network of employees,” he says. “Small things, small items are important in establishing relationships with your peers.”
Relationships with suppliers were also reworked with NOW Corporation pursuing a “give-and-take” approach. “We tell them, ‘We give you our business, it’s probably about time you should give us some of your business,’” Henry says. “We continue to relate to them and understand their experiences because the vendors are also our customers and we have to be consistent since our customer service mantra is: ‘The voice of the customer is always No. 1’.”
Moving beyond the pandemic, Henry sees early signs of recovery and reason for optimism. Broadband sales are recovering and demand for ICT solutions are increasing. “We’re quite optimistic,” Henry says. “And we’re very, very excited about the prospects for 2022 and beyond.”