Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Monday, March 26, 2007

A young ICT entrepreneur

By Tony Lopez
A young ICT entrepreneur

Meet Dennis N. Men­diola. He is 39. He finished BS Economics, summa cum laude, at the Wharton School of Finance, University of Pennsylvania. He has a BS Electrical Engineering Degree, Moore School, also at UPenn.

Pennsylvania is the university where Lance Gokongwei obtained two degrees, both summa, one in finance and the other in engineering. On a personal note, it is where my son-in-law, Benedict Cabal­tica, obtained his masters degree in law, major in taxation. His wife, Ivy Lopez, my daughter and a lawyer, took up a year’s studies there in real-estate investments.

Young Filipinos cannot get any better than Dennis. He is chief executive of Chikka Asia Inc. A source told me Chikka makes $20 million in annual revenues though Dennis wouldn’t confirm the figure to me.

I first met Dennis in the early 1990s working for a pittance as one of the technocrats of Dick Gordon, who had taken over management of Subic when the Americans left. Dennis was in charge of screening locators at the sprawling former US naval facility. Dick Gordon introduced him to me as (the then) boyfriend of Lea Salonga.

Last week SGV and Ernst & Young honored Dennis by naming him the Information, Communications and Technology Entrepreneur of the Year. I doubt that he had any rivals for the plum.

Connecting the world wirelessly is Dennis Men­diola’s business. He does so using two technologies dominant during this 21st century—the Internet and short message service, or SMS, or cellular text messaging.

Doing so, he brings untold benefits to up to perhaps 35 million subscribers, 70 percent of whom are from the Philippines, and the country’s eight million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Having done so, Dennis is looking at the rest of the world to conquer.

Recognizing the rapid expansion of broadband In­ternet throughout the biggest markets in the world, Chikka Asia is now investing substantially in PC online technology, and working to adapt mobile technology to the online world. Chikka Asia is also exploring ways to open up Latin America and Europe to mobile applications.

Dennis’ penchant for challenges enabled him to take on the task of bridging what he calls the “digital divide” between the increasing Internet activity of over eight million Filipinos overseas and the text revolution in the Philippines. He connected these two different platforms of communication through a program known as Chikka Text Messenger, the flagship project of Chikka Asia Inc.

Launched in 2001, Chikka Messenger is the world’s first instant messenger that fully integrates mobile features via SMS. It allows Internet and mobile users to stay connected through user-friendly applications. Today, more and more Filipinos locally and overseas are hooking up to Chikka Messenger. Chikka Asia now has a presence in the USA, China, Japan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Guam and Hong Kong, through tie-ups with over 30 international network operators.

Chikka Asia also offers applications that allow mobile subscribers to access and manage e-mail through SMS, settle various bills using mobile call credits, and participate in mobile-enabled auctions and matchmaking sessions. Chikka created programs such as celebrity newsletters/updates, as well as platforms to download ring tones, logos and other MMS content. Its products cover all areas of mobile space, including communities, content, commerce, communications and corporate solutions.

Despite riding high on Chikka’s wave of success, Dennis is already anticipating the shift of global trends in Internet-based technology.

Chikka Messenger is also able to promote social responsibility by allowing its users to donate microdenominations to charities such as the Philippine National Red Cross. The application also gives Filipinos a venue to get in touch with government agencies such as the Philippine National Police during times of emergency and the Land Transportation Office for suggestions on service improvement.

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