Samsung’s Pivot From Dried Fish to Smartphones

The original office building of Samsung Sanghoe in Daegu

In April Samsung overtook Apple and Nokia in the first three months of the year to become the world’s largest smartphone vendor. This ended Nokia’s amazing 14-year run as the largest maker of all phone handsets by volume.

This is all very impressive for the former South Korean dried fish and noodle business started in 1938. It was only in the late 1960s they entered into the electronics industry. So how exactly does a small Korean food company evolve into one of the world’s largest electronics companies?

Reading through the company’s history on Wikipedia and their own corporate website, the following points stand out:

+ Established by son of a wealthy landowning family, Byung-Chull Lee
+ Dropped out of University
+ Used inheritance to open a unsuccessful rice mill
+ Established a trucking business
+ Business grew into food wholesaling and noodle manufacturer
+ Prospered post World War 2 (end of Japanese Rule)
+ Forced to relocate/pivot due to Korean War – stared a sugar refinery business
+ Diversified into insurance, securities, and retail
+ Founder strong believer in industrialization and domestic economies
+ A joint investment in the group of companies ended due to differences in management style
+ Samsung enter the electronics industry, producing black-and-white television sets
+ During the 70’s they enter the telecommunication hard industry

By the 90’s they had extensive investment in a variety of businesses becoming the leading manufacturer in many fields, including chip sets, display panels and even engines. Not a bad history of events for a company that is only 74 years old!

Reading through articles on the company, the breadth of products and services is outstanding. It is questionable whether such diversity and pivoting would still work today? Whatever the case, Samsung has the experience to compete with the best in the world – smartphones or dried fish…

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Image Credit: London Korea Links – Will Samsung Electronics innovate again?


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