Time savings and cost reductions from advancing technology are transforming developing countries’ economies and business operations, mobile phone business expert Sok Piseth of G Gear tells the Post.
G Gear’s managing director and an authorized distributor for LG Mobile in Cambodia, Sok Piseth spoke with the Post about his business in the mobile industry.
When did you start your business? Why did you choose LG?
We set up our business in late 2011. Actually, our business focuses mainly on consumer electronic products, but we did not sell any particular model of any product. At the time, LG was seeking a partner here. So, we decided to cooperate with them to distribute LG Mobile in our country.
You just set up the business. What challenges do you see ahead?
We ran into difficulties when we started. One big problem for our dealers was the new technology. Most of our dealers don’t know clearly how to use its functions, and so had trouble explaining them to customers. Learning from that experience, we offered a short training course so they can explain everything to customers.
What is your view of the mobile industry in Cambodia?
Of course, we see a lot of opportunity to grow in Cambodia’s mobile industry, in view of changing trends in the global market.
You know, people pay about $1,000 to buy a laptop for many years of use. But they spend nearly the same amount, around $500 or $1,000, to buy a smart phone that they will use for around one year.
Then they will change and buy a new model. That’s an opportunity to make profit.
We also see another big change. People are going from using normal mobile phones to using smart phones. This change is proceeding aggressively in this country and other developing countries. In my view, it is not too late to run a mobile phone business, because I believe there is a lot more room to grow.
But the problem is, change still has its limits. Many people are getting smart phones but do not understand clearly the benefits of having a smart phone. Many of them just use it for showing off to each other, playing music, or chatting. That’s not useful.
How do you link smart phones to the economy?
In my view, smart phones help our economy because they are very useful for business. They offer more convenience, and they let us work faster and spend less. The smart phone does not help only the user, but also other relevant businesses, such as internet service providers, phone operators, and so forth.
How is market segmentation for LG? What is your strategy to grab it?
We ranked No.2 in Cambodia’s market in 2011 after Nokia. Now we are dropping to No.4 due to the sharp increase in iPhone use, which is very aggressive and ranked No.1. The second is Nokia, because they have been in the market for years. The third is Samsung.
But of course, we also formulated a strategy to recover our market share by creating new software. Now, we have set up Khmer Unicode to support our system through reading and writing. This is because our people like checking the news in Khmer font by mobile. So if they don’t have it, it is difficult for them to read. We also set up a Khmer-English dictionary. Now we are trying to create some other software.
Who are your target customers?
We don’t limit the kind of customer. The price of a smart phone is nearly the same compared to other brands. Our price ranges from $150 to $650 or $700. So, a phone is so affordable that people can access their own smart phones easily and conveniently through many applications.
How is competition from a well-known mobile phone brand like LG compared to that from cheap, non-branded Chinese-made phones?
We do have competition from Chinese-made phones priced below $50. But I think if people have more than $50, they will not buy a low-price Chinese-made phone.
Of course, our strategy is to offer people high-quality mobile phones rather that cheap ones that can affect their health. Our mobile phone has been tested for quality before it goes on sale, to avoid adverse impact on users’ health.
By contrast, the Chinese-made phone without a brand normally does not get tested before sale, so it really affects our health. What concerns us is people’s health. If people keep using such phones, their health will suffer. Still, we are not too concerned about competition from Chinese phones. Our main competitors are Samsung, Nokia and HTC.
What‘s your supply coverage?
We do not yet have nationwide coverage. We have sales representatives only in certain provinces with promise, such as Battambong, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville. Here in Phnom Penh, we have our salespersons too. Now, our big market is Phnom Penh. We mainly sell wholesale to those dealers so they can also supply some other provinces.
Can you talk about the market for well-known brands like Samsung, Nokia, HTC and others? How competitive is it?
Well, we are very competitive against Samsung. Nokia and others mainly focus on high-end buyers, so we don’t compete too much with those companies.
Do have any new phones?
We have four new models to launch next month. Our latest and well-known model is LG Prada, which is a collaboration with a well-known brand from Italy. We also have more Optimus L series models, Optimus 3D and Optimus 4X Moreover, we have our IT team already set up, with Khmer Unicode and Phum Dictionary [English-Khmer], and we are planning to build a lot more applications to serve our Cambodian users, showing them more about how to use the multi-functionality of smart phones.