Celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Galaxy brand, the president and CEO of IT & Mobile Communications Division at Samsung Electronics, DJ Koh, was in New Delhi last week to unveil the latest edition of the premium series in the country. The South Korean electronics giant showcased all the three variants of the Galaxy S10 series including Galaxy S10, S10+, S10e and its new wearables line-up. Koh s successive visits (he visited India only six months back to launch another flagship device Samsung Galaxy Note9) vouch for the importance of the Indian market in Samsung s growth plans. India currently ranks the highest in the world in terms of volume shipments for Samsung and is a crucial market for the company s growth, he says. Edited excerpts from a recent interaction:
On the strategic importance of the Indian market:
The Indian market is the second largest, in terms of population in the world, and is growing very fast. Indian consumers are quite techie (tech savvy), and there s a huge number of millennials. They are very interested in technology innovations. India is one of the most important markets for us. And it is evident, as we are investing a lot. We started manufacturing in India in 2007 in the Noida factory, which is now the world s biggest mobile manufacturing plant. And last year we opened the Opera House in Bangalore, our largest experience store.
In terms of the Indian market, last year I had a meeting with Indian partners handling Samsung products. I listened to what they wanted. The millennial and GenZ population in India is growing fast and to meet their extended range of demands, we will do whatever it takes. We do not want to stop but plan to keep going.
On Samsung Fold coming to India:
I currently want to focus on Samsung Galaxy S10 but as I have already said, the Indian market is most important to me. So in this market, why will I not deliver my newest technology innovation?
We started with the foldable display nine years ago. Now it is time to say something meaningful with it. As long as we can do this, the foldable phone segment will continue to grow. Samsung has always been an innovator. When the Galaxy Note came, our rivals criticised it but today all large smartphones have big screens. We defined a new category of mobile phones. People want bigger screens but they also want mobility. So the possibility of demand for foldable phones growing is very bright and that is why we are investing in it.
On the roadmap for Bixby virtual assistant:
For Bixby, the AI algorithm is slightly different from others. Google focuses more on search and other things like shopping. Bixby is more focused on hands-on experience from the device. New Bixby will give you a structure totally open to our partners. We are also expanding languages and opening our systems, working with a variety of partners. They are making it stronger, perhaps later Bixby will merge into the Galaxy Store.
Today, Bixby s usage arena is increasing and the number of languages it is available in is increasing. I have a long-term vision for the Bixby experience to deliver new mobile experiences because we not only make smartphones but TV and other electronic appliances. By 2020, all Samsung products will be IoT integrated and will be connected by AI platform. By 2020, more functions will be embedded on device and to make it happen, we are working with different companies, and new mobile experiences will reach across devices. All connected devices will be easy to use with Bixby, and with electronics we can make it happen.
On the growing competition globally, especially in China:
The Chinese market and the Indian market are slightly different. Our partner structure and organisation, sales and the retail patterns are different. In India, we have around 1,78,000 outlets (including local retailers) that handle only Samsung products and we have been working together for a prolonged period. Also, we have the world s largest R&D facility in Bengaluru (outside Korea) as well as the world s largest manufacturing facility in Noida. Consider this, these retailers have been working only with Samsung since 2007. They are like my family. Because of the tough time in China, I came here personally to understand what the customers want. I changed the line-up of the phones. Last year was a very tough time as we tried to meet the needs of Indian customers.
In China, over the last three years, we have made changes like we did here change in retail, change in the organisation, reshaping the partners in terms of sales, and taking an account of everything. So from this year, we are noticing a change, even in China.
On the business plans for India:
In January, we saw a very successful launch of the M Series (M10 and M20) and sold a huge number of devices in just a couple of minutes and now we are preparing for the M30. The Indian market stands out for its tech-savvy millennials. So not only are we introducing new technologies but delivering them to Indians first. Galaxy M Series was the first device to have been launched in India first. So, we are scripting success stories in India as well and we will keep doing it, and it will eventually be replicated in other countries. Indian customers understand good products and are adopting them, and they immediately recognise the value of our product.
In terms of components, I have a 10-year roadmap, or at least for 5-7 years. It includes hardware, software and service. However, in term of products, when we prepare a long-term roadmap, such as for a mid-range device, like a module design, at times it takes one year and for some products, it s just six months.
On newer technologies such as 5G, virtual reality (VR), AI:
With 5G coming in, 2019 will be the turning point technologically. And everyone is talking about AI and 5G coming together. I think this is an era of technology blossoming all across. 5G will allow higher download speeds and it will give you a better experience at gaming with VR plus augmented reality (AR). We call this MR or mixed reality and we are working with gaming companies for this. For example, with a game like Harry Potter on 4G, the number of times you can cast a spell with the wand maybe twice or thrice per second. With 5G you can shoot it 10 times more. With 4G you cannot deliver ultra-high quality on the VR front. 5G changes it all. You can have VR, AR, MR and video streaming services.
With the technological progress of lenses, AR is growing quickly. But with VR, there is a device you wear on the head and some people like to use it for 30 minutes and some for 10 minutes. But with 5G allowing better speeds, you can enjoy a game (on VR) without feeling dizzy. The time is coming for tethering technologies with 5G at the heart.