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The Slovak arm of Samsung Electronics Czech and Slovak has been marking its 10th anniversary of operation. What have been the milestones of Samsung Electronics in Slovakia?
Peter Tvrdoň (PT): This anniversary is also my personal one as I was at its very opening in 2005 and was building the Slovak branch. We started as a Slovak branch with headquarters in Budapest.
At the beginning we focused on the sale of consumer electronics like televisions, DVD and MP3 players, home theatres, IT devices and later also on household appliances. After two years, in 2007, there followed the sale of mobile phones while these have become one of our dominants on the Slovak market.
The year of 2010 was an eminent milestone for us, as that year we created a branch covering the Czech Republic and Slovakia with headquarters in Prague, while this is our headquarters also today. Thus we moved to a model used by other corporations operating in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. From my point of view, this model is probably the most acceptable as we are connected with the Czech Republic with a long history and also we are very close in terms of the language. Nevertheless, behaviour and preferences of clients are different in many cases.
How has the market changed over this period of time? What factors have affected the development in Slovakia the most and what challenges has Slovakia had to face?
PT: The Slovak market mimics especially more-developed markets and trends are very similar. We are here in the European trade environment and today even more than in the past what affects us is the parallel import from EU member countries. This causes us problems to which we have to respond with more flexible pricing, actions and discounts for consumers or special services.
The challenge which we seized was the time when households began to exchange old CRT televisions, i.e. classical TV boxes with electron tubes, for new, flat – LCD, LED and plasma – TVs. At that time Samsung made a name of itself as the technological leader and it has remained until today. Between 2006 and 2010 – the production of televisions in Galanta already launched in 2002 was a benefit for us.
How has the portfolio of products changed over these ten years? In which sectors is Samsung most successful?
PT: Categories of televisions and mobile devices are of key importance for us on the Slovak market. We simultaneously enjoy a great interest in the category of cooling and washing, where, thanks to quality, we are winning more and more clients. But the portfolio of products is changing very quickly, while the life cycle of individual products is up to one year.
This is true especially for consumer electronics and mobile devices where we are actually introducing novelties constantly. This is required by the competitive market, constantly growing requirements of clients for features of products and our efforts to introduce new devices that are more attractive for their users. I believe that we are managing to continue surprising our clients with new solutions and we will certainly maintain this trend.
The sale of electronics is no longer only about the sale of products themselves but also about the offer of solutions, support, after-sales and other services. What is the approach of the Slovak branch of Samsung Electronics in this respect?
PT: Internet of Things (IoT) is a platform with which we want to make the life of our clients easier with technologies and with which we have great plans. Already at the beginning of this year we have promised that from 2017 all our televisions will support IoT and that all the hardware of Samsung will be ‘IoT-ready’ over the following five years.
Simultaneously our company is one of the initiators in making all the devices, regardless of the platform, communicate with each other. Let’s imagine a world, in which you will not care about what device you own, whether you will be able to pair it with another brand and so on. Everything will mutually communicate and you will only enjoy this interaction.
Simultaneously we also focus on after-sales services, which is important for us. For selected products in categories of televisions, fridges and washing machines we even do Home Delivery Service, which is an above-standard service. We deliver the product to the client, install and set up it, test it and show the client how to work with it.
My opinion is that this is a benefit that premium products deserve. Simultaneously we also provide an extended 10-year guarantee for the engine or compressor regarding fridges and washing machines that are equipped with the so-called inverter. In case of simple failures, we are able to secure repairs of smartphones within 1.5 days within Bratislava.
In Slovakia, products of the Samsung brand are not only sold, but also manufactured. Is it possible to buy Samsung products manufactured here in Slovakia?
PT: The Samsung production plant in Galanta is our biggest plant in Europe. It is also one of the biggest companies in Slovakia and simultaneously one of the biggest exporters of Slovakia. It manufactures smart TVs and monitors with ultra high resolution, up to 95” diagonal for customers in Europe. Simultaneously all products manufactured in Slovakia are available also for Slovak customers, with the label “Made in Slovakia”.
Škola na dotyk, or the School at a Touch is one of the projects of your company within its corporate responsibility plan. Could you please describe this project and its goals?
PT: As we are the producer of mobile technologies, that are not only for fun, but can be also very effectively used in education, we decided in December 2013 to launch a pilot project, the School at a touch at 10 elementary and secondary schools of Slovakia. At each of them a modern classroom was launched equipped with touch technologies and new furniture.
The aim was to test usage of these technologies in education and creation of educational materials. More than 500 such materials were created and they are available free for Slovak teachers. Two more schools were added in January 2015.
Other parts of the project School at a Touch include: LIVE (conferences for exchange experiences between teachers and institutions), ACADEMY (seminars for teachers focused on concrete usage of technologies in education), or UNIVERSITY (cooperation with five universities in education of the future with the help of information technologies).
All these activities have helped us to create an integrated model of education with the help of information technologies. The whole project is also an example of a fruitful cooperation between the private sector, specifically our company, and elementary, secondary and high schools, whose intermediary is the non-governmental organisation EDULAB.
I personally attended some trainings and I have to say that the interest of especially younger teachers in usage of technologies in the process of education is very big and they see in it, equally to us, many benefits in order to educate people more effectively and in more modern ways. This is why we will continue in these projects; in order to create a standard in education via information technologies and have these become a natural part of the educational process.
What are your other CSR projects? What is your strategy and main goals in Slovakia?
PT: Our priorities are especially education, development of skills of young people to increase their ability to find employment and modern health care. We also pay attention to volunteering, culture, sports and increasing the quality of social services. In total, Samsung invests more than €400,000 into these fields annually. Simultaneously we are one of the biggest supporters of corporate volunteering and during the past years we invested more than €300,000 into the enhancement of health care.
Apart from the School at a Touch project, we also carry out, in cooperation with the Slovak University of Technology, the project STU Samsung DigiLab – a technological lab and a schoolroom equipped with the most modern technologies that will serve students and those interested in innovations within the ICT sector.
We believe that in cooperation with the non-governmental and academic sphere we will manage to create such conditions and an inspiring environment for students in order that together we contribute to more modern education and get closer to the needs of the labour market of the 21st century.
What was your path to your current position?
PT: The sphere of my professional activities has been linked with consumer electronics already for many years. This was one of the reasons why the Samsung company approached me 10 years ago with the offer to create a full-fledged commercial representation of the brand on the Slovak market. All my steps during this whole period of time were focused on sales and general management of the branch. After 10 years I am convinced that I took a right step when I entered Samsung, a company which has a vision and which is successfully pursuing it.
At the time I entered the company, Samsung’s market share in the sector of TVs was 3 percent while it was not even spoken about in the case of phones. Nowadays we are number one on the market in both of these categories and our goals include other categories.
What is the vision of the Slovak branch of Samsung Electronics for the future?
PT: The vision of our branch is definitely linked with the growth especially in the field of the sale of appliances for households and equally we will also focus on comprehensive mobile solutions for the education sector. Simultaneously we want to improve the quality of selling channels, either brick-and-mortar or online ones.
The fundamental factor, that will affect the whole development is, of course, the development of the EUR/USD exchange rate as this may affect prices not only in Slovakia but in the whole eurozone.