Looking South Episode #17 – SMEs – Boxlight

In this week’s episode of Looking South, Eric Gau speaks with Boxlight Product Marketing Manager YC Tang about his company’s efforts to break into the Southeast Asian market with the aid of the New Southbound Policy.

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Transcript below:

Eric Gau: Good morning. I’m Eric Gau, and you are tuned in to Looking South here on ICRT. This is our weekly program where we look at the Tsai administration’s New Southbound Policy, and the impact it is having on Taiwan. We are currently exploring the effects the policy has on the country’s small and medium enterprises. To tell us about his company’s experiences, we are joined today by YC Tang, the Product Marketing Manager from Boxlight. Mr. Tang, good morning, and welcome to the show.

YC Tang: Good morning, everyone.

Eric: Let’s start off by getting to know your company. What sector is Boxlight in, and what kind of products do you make?

YC:   Boxlight, international educational brand, is also our product brand. I usually use our brand slogan to describe my product concept. The slogan is “Change the classroom. Change the world.” “Change the classroom” obviously describes our products to replace the traditional classroom such as the blackboard, chalk, marker and eraser into the interactive environment. Such kind of ICT smart equipment are our major products.  But we need to emphasize our product strategy. We don’t want to only provide the individual products to the classroom. Instead, we want to provide one solution to our customer. We have integrated all the individual products with bundled together with our software to be one system. That is a unique and special concept. So we usually get the prestigious reputation from many schools’ feedback.

Eric: Now that we know a little about your firm, what is it that led you to expand into the Southeast Asian market, and which countries are you heading to?

YC:   As you know Taiwan is our home market, multi-function and diversity but small market size so all the companies that want to expand the worldwide markets to enlarge the business scale. It happens that Southeast Asia is close to Taiwan so we are familiar with these countries, especially with the cultural background, thinking concept, and commercial trade terms. Compared with other regions, it is easier to enter the market in the initial stage. Next, Southeast Asia is an emerging commercial economic growth region, full of potential. If your company can catch the opportunity to develop your own channel while chance is coming you can make a lot of money. Based on this condition, our company searched significant market data. Last several years government educational budget in SEA increases 19% average, especially Thai market increase 22% and Malaysia increase 21% so I would like to focus our company resource to develop these two countries in our first step.

Eric: How did the government’s New Southbound Policy factor into your decision to spread overseas?

YC:   I remember two year ago our government announced “New Southbound Economic Policy”. In that year TAITRA holds a lot of marketing campaigns called “Taiwan Excellence Pavilion” to bring Taiwan companies whose products have the “Taiwan Excellence” awards to contact local partners directly. I am honored of our company product getting the Taiwan Excellence award so I can bring it to take part in all the marketing events. That year I catch the wonderful opportunity to join all the events to increase our brand awareness and look for many new local partners to promote our product to their country. So I think, as a Taiwan company, if you promote a product that can get the Taiwan Excellence Award, you can get many government free resource to support you to promote it. I encourage all Taiwan partners to attend the product campaigns to enhance product awareness.

Eric: What were some of the challenges your company encountered as you began operating in foreign markets?

YC:   This is an excellent question. Although this year for my company is just only the 3rd year to enter the market, but I face many difficult problems from the 1st year and til now it seems never stopping. I believe the more difficulties you encounter in the initial stage, the more powerful your ability to solve problems in the future.

Firstly, I think, look for the partner. Because you can’t stay overseas there every day, you need local partners to work together. It is easy understand but absolutely a tough job.  Too many companies spend a lot of time and money to participate in a variety of exhibitions to look for the partner, but still fail.

Secondly, make sure the partner is right partner. If you have a partner, you need to understand his potential to consider how to work together to make future business clear. The step is very important for both. You should spend longer time to understand each other. Let the partner become your trustworthy partner. But that is not enough. You need to understand the market and devise the strategy by yourself, and not only rely on your right partner and develop the market by himself. So before you prepare to invest more resource to the country, keep in mind, trust yourself is more important than only trust your partners.

Eric: Based on your experiences doing business in Thailand and Malaysia, what would you say are the biggest differences with business operations back home here in Taiwan?

YC:   Oh! I think you ask me a very good question. As my previous description Taiwan is a small and beautiful market but multi-functions and diversity country. Now I emphasize “multi-function and diversity” because you can learn many valuable experiences in Taiwan market. From my past experience I spent 6-year to develop Taiwan business. When I move to Southeast Asia market, I find all the past suggestions is very useful. I can make use of my past experience to do the right business judge in Southeast Asia market. I should say, Taiwan successful experience is highly valuable. If you win in Taiwan market, maybe you just only make a little money. But if you fail, your loss is also the least. I sincerely hope before you enter the Southeast Asia market, Taiwan is your first try market.

Eric: Since you entered the Southeast Asian market, how has your business benefited or expanded?

YC:   It is a tough question because I enter the Southeast Asia market just only 3 years. We can say we are in the initial investment stage, I think my partner is the same. We should say in the current stage set up the channel strategy and increase the brand awareness are more important than profit or revenue. Because I think the overseas business is a long-term business. Only the infrastructure getting ready our business benefits will be coming soon. We think domestic and overseas successful experience means we have the ability to set up the win-win business in the overseas market. So fast expansion ourselves to another territory will my next mission.


Eric: And we’ve been chatting with YC Tang, Product Marketing Manager at Boxlight. Mr. Tang, thank you so much for taking the time to share your experiences with us this morning.

YC:   OK, goodbye, thank you everyone.

Eric: And that’s about it for this week’s installment of Looking South. Join us again next week at the same time, Monday morning, for another example of SMEs expanding into Southeast Asia with the help of the New Southbound Policy. I’m Eric Gau, thank you for tuning in.

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