Samsung Asia’s Irene Ng: ‘Myanmar is one of our fastest growing markets’

Multinational giant Samsung is South Korea’s largest chaebol, or industrial conglomerate, and its dozens of subsidiaries include Samsung Electronics, one of the world’s biggest information technology companies. The group’s other activities range from shipbuilding and construction to entertainment and healthcare. Samsung has been consolidating its presence in Myanmar since the change of government in 2011. Frontier spoke to Irene Ng, Samsung Asia vice president for marketing, about the company’s plans for Myanmar.

What is Samsung’s marketing strategy in Myanmar?

About two years ago, we started many branding activities in Myanmar. At that time, the market was only just beginning to open up and a lot of the telephone operators were only just getting into the business.

So we started investing in branding activities, and that campaign was based on consumer research as we tried to establish what consumers in Myanmar like and what are some of the things they look for when buying products.

We found that people in Myanmar are interested in progress and development and very interested in education. They want to learn about the things that are happening around them.

From that, we developed a campaign that was linked to people’s aspirations, because the country is in a developing phase. So we are running a campaign focussing on consumer electronics and mobile phones, showing people how technology and innovation can improve their lives.

What’s been the response from consumers?

They love new technology and innovation. We have launched our latest smartphones, for example the S5 last year and the S6 this year, and we have just launched the Note 5. These products are in the same launch period as other places in the world.

So we are focussing a lot on Myanmar and I think we are already seeing that the market is adapting very well to technology and is very receptive to these new products.

We are also looking to contribute to the local community, and on this trip [with a group of Samsung executives] we are visiting a monastic school where our main aim is to teach children English, and also show them our tablets. We will contribute some of these tablets for their learning journey.

The trip includes people from all countries across the region and this is the first time we are coordinating a regional effort, to come to Myanmar.

Why is Samsung placing so much emphasis on Myanmar?

The number one reason is because Myanmar is one of our fastest growing markets in Southeast Asia. In the last two or three years we have invested a lot, and our staff strength has more than doubled in the last year.

So this is a fast-growing market and consumers here are learning to adapt to new technology and new products and with this growth we are able to employ a lot more local people.
What products are driving that growth?

Predominantly it is mobile phones because the industry has really exploded in the last year. So we have a full range of products, from high-end phones, to mid-range as well as entry-level. Our growth is very much by driven by mobile phones as well as tablets.

On the consumer electronics side, a lot of the growth has been driven by televisions. We are seeing the trend shift towards larger screen sizes, from 26 inches in the past to around 40 inches now.

An increasing number of companies are embracing corporate social responsibility. Why is CSR important to Samsung?

We have been doing CSR work for many years in different regions and also in Myanmar. One of our pillars is education. In 2013, we started a television program for high school students, which was a kind of [contest]. At the end, the winner got half of the fee and the school benefits from the other half, so they can do refurbishments or bring in new equipment.

We are also focussing a lot on education, contributing towards medical schools and those who are training to be doctors. The other area we are focussing on is employment, so programs that encourage internships or scholarships are something we want to develop further.

What are some of the main marketing challenges in Myanmar?

I think the consumers here are quite receptive to a lot of new items and trends, such as digital. Although I know the internet speeds are not the fastest, we do notice that a lot of people in Myanmar access the Internet through their phones, particularly using Facebook.

So I think it’s not really a challenge in terms of marketing, but it’s really about reaching out to this group of people. As the infrastructure improves here, I think getting our reach to this kind of audience should improve.

Do you have specific market targets?

We have specific target consumers. Of course, the mobile phone users we are looking at [are] the Generation Y people because there are many people here under 30 years old, so a lot of our marketing efforts are aimed at the youth.

Then for the consumer electronics, we tend to target more the families and the working adults who can afford things such as televisions or refrigerators.

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