I spent a couple of hours yesterday afternoon with a company that is looking to do some sort of business with Exetel based on their marketing and advertising clout and 'go to market' capabilities in a semi related field to residential communications. We had a conversation some months back but for all sorts of reasons neither of us pursued the opportunity. He called up last week and asked to continue the discussion with some people he does business with in China who he has known for a long time buying many of the products he currently sells. As I am running out, have run out, of any sort of ideas for new approaches to the residential marketplaces in Australia I welcomed the opportunity for fresh input. The people I met with were very bright, very knowledgeable and very young - at least they appeared that way to me.
It took very little time for me to reach a view that they were very well briefed on the Australian communications marketplaces and even more well briefed on the various companies that operate in them.Their own ideas of how to approach various different marketplaces were similar/the same as several companies we have talked with in the past in that they were based on mass retail via the established chains supported by large amounts of advertising money. I have no knowledge of how this marketing approach works but I assume it must as so many people use it. In any event they were very certain they could make it work here and as it wouldn't involve any input from Exetel I was content to let that be a base assumption.
What I had trouble understanding was why they wanted to talk with a company of Exetel's size to provide either the products/services or the infrastructures/back end services as their 'brochure' indicated they had all of these capabilities themselves or could, given their size, easily approach one of the carriers for a wholesale contract. Their answers to my very direct questions (and I tend to be a very direct person) didn't make any sense to me - and I asked them in different ways several times. While I was happy enough to discuss any aspect of communications in Australia I assumed, after the first 45 minutes or so that their objective in having the meeting was to add to their knowledge and that it wasn't remotely likely that they had any real interest in doing any sort of business with Exetel as their simply was no 'fit'.
After the 'politeness part of the meeting' was over their questions all related to detailed pricing of the various components of infrastructures required to deliver different services and how they had moved over the past years and what they might move to over the coming years. They were also intensely interested in how our SL company was created including time frames and costs and how we 'solved' the language problems. As they were such nice people and so stimulating to talk to I was happy enough to be 'fooled' into providing as much detailed information as they asked for....although I might not have been as strictly truthful as I may have seemed. I have absolutely no problem in sharing what little I know with anyone on any sort of reciprocal basis but I don't think this particular meeting met anyone's definition of reciprocal.
One surprising thing was that many of their questions were based on various blog entry comments I had made going back over two years and one of the people said (probably only in conventional flattering style) how much she enjoyed reading my blog every day back in China and that she recommended it to many of her business friends.....as I said...she knew how to flatter to get information. However that was definitely not their only source of Australian information as they knew the names of the companies that we were currently talking to about various visp type services and even the stages we had reached....how they knew such information is not easy to work out.
I managed to learn a few things about their business and about mass marketing generally and its always really enjoyable to talk to very sharp minded people - even if they do take you for a fool....that is happening to me so often lately perhaps I really am as foolish as so many people take me for?