Taiwan-based Shawn Shu, the young and dynamic account manager of ASUSTeK Computers Inc, is an MBA from the University of Illinois, USA. He began his career in 1995 as the finance controller of Cheng Shin Tyres, Taiwan. In 1996, he handled the CD-ROM business for Acer Peripherals Inc and later joined ASUSTeK in 1998. A confirmed globetrotter, Shawn has a thorough knowledge of channels. He made it a point to travel to even the C class cities in India to get a first hand feel of the market here. He talks to CI on his company’s strategy to grow in the Indian marketplace.
Besides motherboards, what are the other products that ASUSTeK Computer Inc manufactures?
We also manufacture CD-ROM drives, CD-RW drives, DVD-ROM drives, VGA cards, servers as well as notebooks. We also plan to manufacture Internet appliances like set-top boxes, personal digital assistants, workpads, as well as handheld computers very soon. We already provide 3D glasses for virtual reality applications.
Are all these products available in India?
Everything we manufacture, is available in India through Rashi Peripherals.
What are your strengths which channels in India appreciate?
Basically, what they like about us is the reliability and good quality of our products. They have all the more reason to appreciate our quality because in India, duties are very high. Only few ASUSTeK products have to be re-exported so our partners can rest easy.
What is your channel strategy?
We have an established channel policy. We are very academic in our approach and we keep the four Ps of marketing (products, pricing, promotion and placement) in mind all the time. We are very good communicators and we keep in touch with our channels all the time. ASUS has a unique way of doing business. We look for partners who match our quality concepts. We skip those who ask only about prices.
Usually, we look for long term relationships. We categorize out top 20 SIs as OEM partners. I have visited even to the C-class cities. Even here, people recognize that our products are of superior quality. Already, engineers of systems integrators rate our products as the best.
As of now, I am sowing the seeds. The channels are my seeds. Eventually, we plan to have a separate channel as well a different approach for finished products like notebooks.
What criteria do you follow while selecting your channel partners?
They should be able to provide good logistics, including stocking and delivery. They should know the art of servicing. They should also be financially strong. They must know the market and what the customer wants. They must also possess professional and technical knowledge of the products.
Do you plan to appoint more distributors in the country?
For the time being, we have no plans to approach other distributors. We want our present distributor to grow with us.
How has your experience with Rashi been?
Initially, Rashi talked about the prices of our products. But they don’t talk about it anymore. They are convinced about the advantage of selling a good quality product. Today, Rashi trusts us completely and distributes over 50 percent of ASUS products.
What about your promotional schemes?
Well, we have the ASUS-Rashi Partnership Program. We plan to have 500 channel partners and will work very closely with SIs. Our objective is to have 3,000 systems integrators across the length and breadth of the country in the near future. We have found a way to achieve this. Every ASUS partner would have to register atleast three systems integrators. We are already conducting state-level road shows.
Are you planning any schemes for your notebooks?
Yes. For our notebooks, we plan to do a separate end-user program, which will be launched shortly. To start with, we will set up a toll-free helpline in Mumbai. We also plan to target the top universities as well as the MIS departments of corporates. Initially we will have to push our notebooks. But our aim is to create a pull for our products within two years.
We have decided to use our channels to reach the end-user as early as possible because the ‘pull’ factor is best established when end users are still in their learning process. That is why we plan to launch schemes with demo sets and discounts.
Do you run any training programs for channel partners?
Besides dealer meets, we also conduct sales training for channel partners internally. We give our channels all the commercial and technical information they need. Very soon, engineers of ASUS-Rashi Partners will be trained by Rashi Peripherals.
Channels say that margins are shrinking all the time. What do you have to say about this?
Well, shrinking margins is the trend in IT business all over the world. But I can assure them that if they sell ASUS products they can be assured of better margins.
What are the weaknesses of Indian channels?
Actually, there are no weaknesses. Indian channels are very good. They are doing a good job in a place where the gray market is very big. Everybody is in a frenzy to get into the IT business. They all seem very eager to learn.
What is the kind of warranty support that ASUS provides?
Currently we provide a one-year warranty in India. Globally, we provide a three-year warranty. This is mainly because of the duty issue. Besides this, there is usage behavior. All manufacturers in India offer only one-year warranties.
What is the kind of business that you hope to do in India?
We should be able to cross Rs 5 million US dollars in India very soon. Next year, we hope to double this, if our notebooks take-off.
Do you have any plans to manufacture in India?
At present we have no manufacturing plans. In the long term, we might manufacture in India. I think manufacturing in India is only a matter of time for us.
— Bobby Anthony in Mumbai.