Firm looked 'sharp' and beat recession

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 November, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 November, 1994, 12:00am

ELECTRICAL goods manufacturer Sharp Brave Holdings has won the Certificate of Merit Award from the Trade Development Council (TDC) for beating the recession by increasing its overseas sales.

Since it was set up in the early 1980s, Sharp has concentrated on the design, manufacture and marketing of calculators, hand-held electronic games and translators.

One of the company's new sales successes is its 'Voice phone' which is helping to underpin its second phase of expansion.

Voice phone users can store the names and telephone numbers of their friends, family and colleagues simply by talking to it. And, when the user decides he or she wants to ring up one of the numbers, they can do so simply by asking it to dial the number stored in the Voice phone's memory.

Other new products include learning cassettes, karaoke cassette players, battery chargers and vacuum cleaners.

Francis Li Chi-hung, managing director of Sharp Brave Holdings, said his company was able to increase exports by broadening its customer base overseas.

The company did not want to be caught with all its eggs in one basket by concentrating its sales in one region, he said.

For example, Sharp had cut its dependency on the European market during the past two years. The company made 50 per cent of its sales to European buyers in 1992, but managed to cut this dependency to 35 per cent of in 1993, he said.

Meanwhile, Sharp increased its proportion of sales to the United States from five per cent in 1992 to a double figure percentage, rivalling the company's European market in 1993.

The proportion of sales made to Southeast Asian countries during the last few years also increased, with Malaysia and Singapore the main markets, he said.

The company wanted to raise its profile in Southeast Asian in the coming years, because the region had good potential for further growth, he said.

China was also targeted by Sharp.

Mr Li said his company hoped to start selling its products there within the next three months once it had received government permission.

The TDC judges praised the company's ability to recognise the cultural differences of various markets and subsequently modify its sales approach to suit different needs.

To tailor the company's marketing techniques to the different countries, Mr Li said Sharp had carried out extensive market research prior to launching a product. This included showing customers its products to see if they were suitable for them.

Sharp's researchers had found that US buyers wanted goods which were cost-competitive and functional, while Europeans favoured fashionably designed items which were highly functional.

He said devising a marketing campaign for its products in China presented many challenges because of the wide disparity in income between the country's wealthy and the majority of citizens.

The well-off did not mind how much they had to pay, provided the product was of good quality, whereas 'everyone else' considered low cost to be a priority.

The judges also said 'the company showed a thorough understanding of the nature of overseas retail distribution channels'.