A decision by Samsung to sell solar powered laptops in Bangladesh at low prices could be the first of a new generation. For mobile users and those living without utility power in the West, the 3G products could give long-term Internet access on the remotest mountaintop.
In a display of cultural ineptitude, the Seoul based company with an annual turnover of more than $220 billion says it will launch the new product next month, right at the start of the Bangladesh monsoon season which would make solar powered portables unusable.
Samsung had announced plans last year for a solar powered laptop to be launched (improbably) in Russia. But this product has yet to appear. The new development seems more realistic as part of a strategy to target the young professional market among the 160 million Bangla population.
“We will launch solar notebooks in June for young professionals,” said Choon Soo Moon, managing director of Samsung Electronics (Bangladesh operations), in an interview with Dhaka’s Daily Star.
“It is a unique product and we will be the first company to launch it in Bangladesh with a price tag of Tk 34,000. ($415)”
He expects the product to attract professionals, especially of 23-30 years of age, who have to travel a long way for office work.
Samsung aims to introduce the solar notebook computers as the country faces a nagging power crisis and still half of the population is deprived of electricity from the national grid, says Moon.
Besides, in terms of weather, Bangladesh is suitable for solar energy as the country enjoys longer sunlight hours.
The South Korean electronics powerhouse will initially focus on awareness building about the solar notebooks, says the official.
“In the beginning, we are not targeting big, rather focusing on creating demand for the products through promotional campaigns,”
He expects to sell around 500 pieces of solar notebooks a month.
For anyone interested in importing the products to the West, Samsung’s Dhaka office is not involved in any direct sales in Bangladesh. It sells refrigerators, television and mobile sets and computer monitors through local distributors.
For cellular handsets, Transcom Mobile Ltd is the official distributor, while Electra International and Transcom Electronics market consumer electronics.
In the IT products’ category, Smart Technology, Index IT Ltd and Computer Source sell Samsung computer monitors, hardware and other computer accessories.
These distributors import Samsung products directly from the factories of India, South Korea, Malaysia and China and also handle the service centre activities. For mobile phones, Samsung outsourced mobile servicing to Discovery, a third party mobile servicing company.
“In Bangladesh, you have to go to one market to buy a television set, while for IT products and consumer electronics, you have to go to other markets,” he says.
“It is good. But the end-users have to spend a lot of time for this.”
The company also plans to develop around 50 mobile applications for local market this year at its research and development centre in Dhaka.
The R&D centre, which was launched last year, has offered a big advantage for the electronics giant to face the challenges in the local market.
“We are in a position to handle any regulatory or unforeseeable challenges due to having our own software development centre in the country,” says Moon.
He says Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) has recently made it mandatory for all mobile handsets to be used within the country to have Bangla keypad.
“We could easily comply with the directive as four hundred Bangladeshi software developers are working at the R&D centre,” says Moon.
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