Able to claim more airport stamps in his passport than he's probably eaten breakfast, Asus' Ted Chen has finally packed away the travel bag and is planting roots in Australia.
After spending five years on the road for Asus, Chen is now tasked with building up the Asus brand in the local market.
According to Chen, his down under mission is to offer value hardware with the best performance and quality into the local market across a category of product lines including computer systems, components and communications.
Given the company's background is in the components business, he said his work is cut out for him drumming up brand awareness for the vendor's notebooks.
Nevertheless, Chen claims the Australian story is already a good read - and will hopefully follow in the footsteps of its successful market take-up overseas.
How did you get involved with Asus?
Ted Chen (TC): When I joined AsusTek, my first assignment was to look after the Middle East: the African and South Asia markets. I took that territory for three years and set up the sales channels. At that time, we didn't have any strong channels over there. The first step was training. I also set up direct distributors, and gradually built up the service system. We ended up getting good market share in optical drives, graphic cards and motherboards. Already, I've had a wide range of challenges and experiences at this company.
Why did the company decide to set up a local presence?
TC: In April, I was made managing director of Asus Australia. Previously, Asus had no official base here. It was all travel-based from headquarters, and we had a good distributor here to look after everything. But this year, top management has adopted a different strategy and decided Australia is a growing market. So not only are we a strong components business in the Australian market, but we've expanded to become a total solution provider.
We are experiencing strong growth in the notebook space, and want to grow market share even further. There's a huge opportunity to develop in this consumer electronic field. And according to our past experience - we're successful in Taiwan, China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Russia, Turkey and Italy - as long as we focus on making good product in terms of design, quality, reliability and performance, the customer will appreciate it.
Given your past experience with the component business, how do you plan to get the channel excited about consumer electronics?
TC: The Asus style of marketing is called technical marketing. We've found whenever you're pushing components technical marketing works effectively.
But if you want to push consumer electronics such as notebooks, PDAs or mobile phones, they require more brand awareness. That is what we are now focusing on. If you compare the market size of Taiwan and Australia both have a population of about 20 million, but in Taiwan we're selling 20,000 notebooks per month, while in Australia we have plenty of room to grow (roughly 5000 units are sold here per month).
We want to appeal to the market by offering a global 2-year warranty - no other notebook brand in Australia is offering this. Most offer one-year, and then you have to pay more for optional/extended warranty. More than that, we've come here to develop the local organisation and enhance our service.
Where are the growth areas in the local notebook market?
TC: In Australia, the corporate market (the big corporate projects and government institutes) is a growth area. And this is where all of the big brands are growing, and putting a lot of their resources. At the moment, our main exposure is mostly with the home user, but we want to put more resources into cultivating the corporate segment, pushing the M5 and S5 models.
What are your top strategies for 2005?
TC: I have three major assignments. The first one is to manage the distribution channels better than in the past. Before we were managing Australia with a remote control from Taiwan. Now that we're here we can get in touch with the dealers, know the dealers, and know the voice and hear customer complaints. This is a good challenge and experience for us.
The second strategy is to further enhance our service. We have launched the 2-year nationwide pick-up and return warranty, and we already have a component service centre with local repairing here.
By the end of this year, we're going to launch three direct service centres in Australia (one in Silverwater, Brisbane and Melbourne). It will be the Asus notebook care centre.
The third task is to increase Asus total brand awareness and image, and work with the partners and distributors to accomplish that goal. At the moment, for the notebook market, we have three distributors: Cassa, Ingram Micro and Synnex.
Next year, we will further enhance our consumer electronics products - we are aiming to reach the top three in terms of market share in notebooks. Then, we will launch our communication products (including mobile phones).