The Business Year

Simon Lee

COLOMBIA - Telecoms & IT

For the Long Run

President, Samsung Colombia


Simon Lee became the president of Samsung Colombia in July 2015. Prior to his appointment, he served as the president of Samsung Bolivia, from 2013 to June 2015. He graduated from Seoul National University. He has a master’s degree in international relations.

“One development is named the tech institute, the principle aim of which is to utilize our facilities and technology for the betterment of Colombian society.“

What is the importance of the Colombian market for Samsung’s strategy in Latin America?

The Colombian market is already a big one but still has huge potential to grow. In terms of country size and population, which are already formidable, it’s even more attractive for its growth potential. In this sense we are investing a lot and we are studying how to be a better member of Colombian society. The Colombian market is competitive for retailers. If we prove ourselves in the Colombian market we can prove ourselves in the global market. In this sense it is a critical market.

What business lines have the most potential in Colombia?

The mobile device sector is definitely the most attractive. Within our business portfolio, mobile is the highest portion for our business. Even though the penetration in mobile devices here is already at a global level. Technology wise, however, we have room to grow—in 4G and 5G, for example. Smartphones have already penetrated the Colombian market but the LT technology has a ways to go. We are focusing on how to spread out the LTE and 4G technologies to Colombian society. This is where Samsung’s expertise takes the advantage in Colombia.

What are some of the challenges you see in Colombia which are unique to the country? What are the main challenges you are now facing?

I stayed here for 1.5 years and when I arrived in July of 2015 we were in the middle of an economic fluctuation, with the exchange rate badly affected. At the beginning of last year the exchange rate was around COP2,000 to the dollar, and at the end of last year it was COP3,000, a 50% devaluation. That impacted our business very negatively and still remains a major challenge. Nor is the macro-economic situation particularly promising, as inflation has also impacted us. These are some of the challenges of doing business here. The last thing is competition. There are too many players on the provider and retail side. Competition is a factor, and the market price is ever fluctuating. The visibility level is a little low, which also factors into our business. In the short term, competition is a challenge to our business, but in the long term it is good for us. It makes us stronger and the competition always forces us to make our product better, leading to better technology for the Colombian people. It’s a good thing in the long run.

How is Samsung partnering with local institutions?

I am very proud of what we have done over the past year. One development is named the tech institute, the principle aim of which is to utilize our facilities and technology for the betterment of Colombian society. We have already developed certain facilities and products that we are excited to share with the Colombian people. We also have a corporation with SENA, where we set up some classrooms and now facilitate our products there in combination with their teaching methodology and our technology. When Colombian students learn how to handle technology and fix devices, it is a great example of our local partnerships. We are running the smart schools format as well. This year we developed a different kind of project called Nómada, a mobile classroom. We developed some equipment and then dispersed spot tablets, TVs, and even tables. We currently have eight modules that we sent out across the country to areas that don’t have access to normal classrooms. It is a great tool to approach the people that live in rural areas like the Amazon or in the mountains. We can fold it up and take the classroom anywhere we go.

How do you see the upcoming tax reform in the country impacting Samsung?

Assuming there will be some tax increases, this means the final consumer price will increase. This will greatly impact demand. We are a little worried about this but will still overcome the situation. We will improve our product design, technology, solutions, and services.

What is your outlook for 2017?

There are still some economic issues, not to mention the tax problem, but we can deal with these challenges and will grow in terms of sales revenue. In a decade or two from now, Samsung wants to be an aspirational and admirable brand. We are not just doing business without providing some solution-oriented products. At the same time we want to give insight to Colombian society as an integral member.



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