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An Insight into Mobile Phone Market: Samsung’s Zarni Win Htet, Head of IT and Mobile Channel Management


One of the repatriates to Myanmar, Samsung Myanmar’s Head of IT and Mobile Channel Management, Mr. Zarni Win Htet shared the latest information on Samsung’s mobile phones with a touch on interesting topics like current trends in technology and local customers’ feedback on various issues as well as his opinions on the technology sector improvement, challenges and changes within the country he has witnessed.


MI : How did you end up as the Head of IT and Mobile Channel Management at Samsung Myanmar?

Being a repatriate, after working overseas for 11 years, I came back to Myanmar three years ago. Things started to change at that time and I was looking forward to more opportunities. It was back in 2012 when Sam- sung was trying to officially set up here and with the combination of my international experiences and local knowledge, I was given the position of Head of IT and Mobile Channel Management at Samsung Myanmar.

MI : Please tell us more about your duties and responsibilities.

My duties mainly include promoting Samsung Brand in Myanmar’s mobile market and distributing countrywide and in order to do so, we need to choose and manage the right distribution channel. I’m responsible in providing strategies in opening Samsung Brand Shops and managing distribution channels as well as getting the feedback on the market needs back to our headquarters. As our motto says “Think Global, Act Local” which means though we have to go with global trends and flow, it is necessary to take the localization in consideration for example, Samsung mobile phones are the first ones to feature Myanmar fonts, both Zawgyi and Unicode fonts.

MI : What kind of assignments is your team currently undertaking?

We are focusing on the business growth since Samsung has been here for only three years and we are developing the Samsung mobile phone business at present. And the mobile penetration is currently in the process of expansion by telecoms and it is a huge untouched market and we are trying to have as much share as we can in the market. It can be said that our country adapt the growth quite quick as consumers are able to use 3G network since the opening of the telecoms market. It was assumed that feature phones would dominate the market but in reality smartphones enjoy the highest demand and we are trying to provide them for everyone.

MI : How many sales centers are there in the whole country and how are you going to expand them?

For the customers’ trust and the branding of Samsung, we set up brand shops focusing on customers’ experience called SES- Samsung Experience Store. Personal experience is important in judging a smartphone. That is the reason of opening SES in most cities across the country and customers can enjoy the trial at these local SESs. The other way round is that Samsung has teamed up with shop.com.mm and started selling Samsung products officially on the internet that customers can purchase from home.

MI : Do you know Samsung’s current market share in the country especially for smart phones?

We are focused to meet the demands of the Myanmar consumers. We believe that Samsung is one of the top preferred brands for Myanmar consumers. The market is growing every day, and we are trying hard to be absolute number one preferred brand in Myanmar.

MI : What is Samsung’s target market segment for Myanmar?

Actually, we are trying to supply products for the whole market. Mobile phone market in Myanmar is only starting to develop and there still are requirements and we can’t focus on only either low-cost products or up- scale ones. So the whole market segment is our target and we offer a wide range for consumer to choose from, based on the avail- able budget for the consumer. All Samsung mobile phones are priced at a range from US$30 to 850.

MI : What are Samsung’s main products in the local market?

As mentioned earlier, we offer a wide range of mobile devices; which means we have both feature phones and smart phones and the latter can be categorized into entry, mid and high-end. Consumer in Myanmar loves Samsung for big screen and affordability in the midtier segment. Most of consumers are looking for value in their mobile device, which is big screen, good specifications and at an affordable price. In this segment, we are doing very well at this moment as we have a few devices that meet the consumer criteria.

MI : What is Samsung’s unique selling point compared to other global brands in the market?

Samsung has always had substantial investment in R&D – Research and Development. We believe that with more innovative and creative technology, we can develop a higher living standard. When compared with other brands, we are leading at the top in R&D. We always provide cutting edge technology that is different from other brands, for example Samsung has introduced the first dual-edge display and used 14-nanometer technology that improves a better battery life in its latest products.

Another unique selling point is Samsung manufactures its own components and sup- ply others too. From Chipsets, DRAM, LCD Screens, memory and battery to casings for mobile phones are all manufactured by Samsung. We can supply a more innovative and better technology than others and this can be said as one of our selling points. An- other thing is that we use quality products like we apply super AMOLED QHD display in Samsung devices. And we try to apply lo- calization according to market needs such as providing the dual SIM and Myanmar fonts.

MI : From which regional production centers Samsung products are imported to Myanmar?

Samsung smart phones are currently manufactured mainly in Korea, China and Vietnam. Our production center in Vietnam can provide a workforce of 100,000 and up to 20% of Vietnam’s income in exports comes from Samsung products. When thinking about exporting Samsung products to Myanmar, China and Vietnam are the nearest manufacturing centers we have and there is no difference between a China made Samsung product and the one from Vietnam as the same product guideline is applied in all production centers. All the components are the same and the only difference is the SIM card slot where it is programmed with localized software for example the dual SIM for Myanmar and the Philippines. Though some consumers assume different product quality depending on the manufacturing locations, it is necessary to inscribe the location in following international rules and regulations and we reaffirm that the difference in manufacturing locations doesn’t have any impact on quality control. In all Samsung production facilities around the world, a vigorous QC process is in place before any product leaves the manufacturing facility.

MI : Which organizations are you collaborating with in Myanmar?

We have been in collaboration with the telecoms operators in providing affordable mobile plans with Samsung mobile phones for the consumers in the country. We have also collaborated with a local bank in offering 0% interest option for consumer to purchase some of our devices.

MI : What kind of opportunities can Samsung provide for local technicians and workforce?

For local technicians, Samsung intends to provide vocational trainings in the near future. And secondly, we are trying to train our employees to meet international standards for better understanding in this industry. And we are faced with some challenges in doing so since it is still an inexperienced market and it takes some time.

MI : Please tell us more about Samsung Tech Institute Programme.

We realise that there are very few of local apps available online in Myanmar. It was impossible to be commercially benefitted from such activities as we used to have a weak mobile penetration. So, we made a plan to collaborate with University of Computer Science Yangon (UCSY) and started this program at the end of 2013 and by 2014, we had trained over 100 students and we look forward to increasing the number of students to 150 in 2015. The trained students are exposed to offers from foreign companies who would like to employ the outstanding ones in Myanmar and it is our aim to provide opportunities for them to create applicable apps via Android platform. Now we are working with both the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Education to reach more students and help improve on the program requirements.

MI : What is your opinion on current IT and technology trends?

IT plays an important role in developing the country for example like in e-government. I believe that we are now in the developing stage. The entry of new telecoms operators, the increasing number of SIM cards and the availability of 3G networks, all can be seen as the very first steps in the country’s IT development. There is also very high usage of social media which can lead to both positive and negative impacts and there are more social etiquette and acts to follow as more advanced IT arrive. It is important to be informed timely as well as for people to make better judgments on the information they receive.

Initially, mobile phones were intended for communications only and as trends change,it becomes more than communications. Smart phones are nowadays used for both work (taking notes) and entertainment (movies, music, games) as well as taking photos. They have become more embedded in our daily lives. So we try to invest more in the technology and find out what people need.

Another thing we usually encounter with is that since users can enjoy open source on Android devices which among Samsung is one of them, consumers may experience slow response from the phones if they are not used properly. For example, when inserting an extra SD card, it is important to choose the one with the right data transfer rate to avoid the android phones being hanged.

MI : What do you think is needed to improve Myanmar’s technology sector?

The more competitive it is, the better improvements the technology sector can be, in my opinion. And what more important is the fairness of the competition. It would be the best if equal opportunities are given and then fair trading and competition can take place.

MI : From a business standpoint, what do you feel are the biggest challenges facing you and your team in Myanmar in next 1-3 years?

The first challenge is the banking system that there is no credit control yet in Myanmar but later when the e-government is practiced here, there are possibilities for more online data transfer in the future. Another thing is the telecoms coverage, although the operators are trying to cover the whole country, the coverage is still mainly focused in major cities where there is high population density and operators also have to deal with different regulations in building telecoms towers across the nation. Others like electricity supply and Wi-Fi are the kind of challenges that cannot be overcome with- in a few years.

MI : What effect do you think that the sudden influx of foreign companies/ nationals will have?

I believe we must welcome it. The very first advantage is that it creates job opportunities as the foreign companies need local knowledge. Secondly, some people see it as a threat but I don’t as competition occurs in the market. And also the workforce will become more qualified as they are exposed to international training and experiences. It is a good thing for the country.

MI : If you could make one major change to any government policy, what would it be?

I am a practical person and I wouldn’t want to dream that kind of dream so that I will not be able to answer this question. But I must say I witness a lot of changes and that is the reason why I repatriated. I also see that there is too many expectation but very little responsibility is taken by each individual. Last two or three years ago, SIM cards were priced at about 250,000 kyats and nowadays they can be purchased with 1,500 kyats and we must welcome it. Even a com- pany can’t change its direction overnight so people need to be patient as the government needs to take its time.[/paypal]