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BenQ goes back to basics

Canadian expansion will have to wait as the Taiwanese electronics manufacturer focuses closer to home

Taipei –Taiwan – Conway Lee, the CEO and president of BenQ Group, did not mince words about his company’s failures in Canada, the U.S. and even in Europe. In 2006, BenQ Mobile, a separate division based in Germany went bankrupt, while a year earlier BenQ downsized the Canadian office.

However, the $22 billion computing player is not giving up on the mobile space or abandoning the Canadian and U.S. markets, Lee said. The North American market, however, will not be a top priority for the vendor.

When Lee took over for K.Y. Lee, who is now the chairman of BenQ, he established a new strategy to maintain profitability and forgo market share. He also said that maintaining leadership on home soil and in other Asian markets comes first. Even the European market is ahead of North America. A move back into North America will involve a step-by-step approach and will only start when BenQ builds up more assets in Asia and Europe.

Lee has put a plan in place for the Canada and U.S. offices to sustain themselves for the time being. BenQ Canada is profitable today and will await a more aggressive strategy after BenQ grows its other markets, Lee said.

Four years ago, K.Y. Lee told CDN that BenQ’s JoyBook notebook would be launched in Canada first as a test market for an eventual U.S. launch. That plan was later scrapped by Conway Lee.

“We had that as a priority, but when we were bringing the JoyBook to market we saw the North American market was maturing and there was still heavy competition,” he said.

These facts brought about an internal review and BenQ decided to rethink its strategy and enter the North American market only after it had reached certain notebook sales performance levels, which it still has not attained.

“Canada and U.S. are the biggest markets and the American brands have home court advantage; I have to respect that. This is why we changed our strategy,” Lee said.

As for the mobile business, Lee said he wants to put BenQ’s past failures behind him.The direction now is not to come back with another me-too product, but the next generation mobile device. “There are lots of different devices and it depends on which angle you’re coming from. We believe there is still an opportunity. We did have a failure, we recognize that and we have trained ourselves to do better,” Lee said.

He added that BenQ does not have the global scale to compete with a Nokia, for example, so the company will look to develop a niche product or a mobile device that can add more value to the space.