BRAND VALUE

Panama 2018 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Seong Hyun Lee, President Central America and Caribbean of Samsung, on the highlights of 2017, its B2B activity in Panama, and the particularities of the market.

Seong Hyun Lee
BIOGRAPHY
Seong Hyun Lee is the President Central America and Caribbean at Samsung. He graduated from Hong Ik University as a mechanical engineer. He has over 14 years of experience in technology and has had a successful career at Samsung leading various management and corporate areas. He directed the region of Indonesia, then served as President of Samsung Colombia.

How has Samsung evolved in Panama, and what were some of the highlights from 2017?

Samsung Panama is a regional hub for 23 countries in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. 2017 was an excellent year for us, especially in mobile phones. The IT sector in general today includes the sale of LEDs and many other products that are growing. In this market, we face uncertainty in the form of political issues with the upcoming elections. However, the economy is growing across the region, with significant growth in Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, in addition to Panama. In terms of total turnover, we are under the Latin America headquarters and have subsidiaries in many countries. Panama is number three overall after Brazil and Mexico, followed by Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and Peru. Panama is a small market, though we oversee several territories from here. Panama is a great place to manage our operations as a result of the great logistics and strategic advantages as a center. We have a large warehouse in Colón that serves as a distribution center for many countries, including Cuba. Moving forward, we see competition increasing in 2018 and becoming tougher. Many companies are changing rapidly, and we compete in many markets with them. However, we are proud of our quality product and have great brand value with high technology. We are doing many activities to contribute to society and support our customers.

How would you characterize Samsung's B2B activity in Panama? Does it have a successful corporate segment?

Panama is a great place to do B2B activity. Many huge companies are based here, with Procter & Gamble and Adidas close to our office, for example. We operate in an aligned way, to the extent that we have even opened a website for their employees. We cooperate with HR departments in different companies here to offer products to their employees through the site. They can log in, click, and buy our products through exclusive channels. Everything is online now, including business. We also tap into that.

What new products are you set to launch in Panama?

For Samsung, the products we launch typically comprise two new mobile phones every year. In 2018, we launched S9 and S9+. We plan to launch the Galaxy Note 9 in the second half of 2018 as well. The plus edition is being showcased at various B2B centers, and we invite customers to come and take a look there. We not only showcase mobile phones during these shows, but also products like LEDs, phone cases, and security products, especially for B2B. Through our products, companies can block certain types of mail or set up separate systems. When we work together with a company, we always introduce this side of our products together with whatever it is buying.

What particularities of Panamanian customers have you noticed?

They are critical; they are not simply looking for high quality or expensive products but are checking the function of each against the price. Aside from the high-end market, people generally compare prices in great detail. We cannot sit back and relax for even a moment, because if another company offers a product with better specifications at a better price, consumers will switch brands nearly immediately. We are working to become better at all times.

What have you identified as the main challenge of doing business in Panama?

There are several aspects. Most of the companies here manage many countries from Panama as a central hub. The population here is 4 million, though the population of the region is 130 million, making the market extremely large. Panama is stable, though there are certain uncertainties here generated by political activity. Size-wise, it is small, and the channels are also small. We have smaller dealers, and it is hard to standardize our business.