Maiden R&D set up to nurture local talents
Samsung Bangladesh Research Centre (SBRC), the first research and development (R&D) setup by Samsung Electronics in the country, will not only cater to local demands but also Middle Eastern and African countries, its managing director said.
Last month, Samsung Electronics, the world's largest technology company by sales, launched the R&D centre at Uday Tower in Gulshan, first of its kind by any multinational company in Bangladesh.
"Whatever you see in Samsung mobiles in Bangladesh, we will develop," said Nam Kyu Lee, managing director of SBRC Ltd. "But our target is not only the Bangladeshi market. We have also targeted other Asian and African countries including Australia."
"We will customise our products in line with needs of the consumers," he told The Daily Star during an exclusive interview recently.
So far, the SBRC, the Seoul-based company's 18th R&D centre in the world and second in South Asia, organised five job fairs and four campus-recruiting events at the country's top universities and hired 180 fresh graduates.
"We will hire 300 graduate engineers this year. Our ultimate target is to recruit 1,000 people by 2013. That will however depend on the performance of the current staff working here and R&D need of Korean market worldwide," said Lee.
Lee, 46, said they would also hire qualified and talented Bangladeshis living abroad, particularly in the USA and Canada.
All engineers and staffs currently working at the centre are Bangladeshis apart from two South Koreans, including Lee.
Lee said they are facing problems in recruiting skilled and experienced people. "Our engineers are not experienced. They have no experience about the domain of Samsung and mobile software development."
"We are training them on basic things for four weeks and then on project specific topic and mobile software for another four weeks. We will then start physical work."
SBRC is working with Samsung's R&D centre in India and headquarters to train its people. "We have sent some of our engineers to India to work with staffs there. We are also sending a number of engineers to our headquarters in South Korea," said Lee, who joined Samsung in 1988.
Lee said the main focus of the centre is to develop software for mobile phones, which will be used by Samsung alone. There is also demand from R&D sector, so it will provide core software.
"Initially, our products will be used for Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and other Asian, Middle Eastern and African countries. We will also develop software for South East Asian countries and Australia."
He said they are working on developing software for feature phones or low-cost phones. "We will later move to smartphone segments."
"We will not develop hardware here."
The Samsung official said the SBRC is also working on developing digital camera applications and mobile testing system.
"We will develop mobile testing. Whenever we develop any mobile software, its needed to be tested before launching. Different models have been in place in different markets across the world. So, whenever we have a new model, we will have to test it internally."
On pilot basis, the SBRC has already developed software like Bangladesh tour guide to help tourists travelling the country with information where and how they can go.
"We have also developed software for Bangladesh calendar and clocks for prayers. These are available online free," he said.
"These are some of the examples we are working on. We will expand scopes as we move on. Our target is to provide all software solutions to Muslim people around the world," he said, adding that this is the first R&D centre in a Muslim country.
He said Bangladesh is a Muslim country with over 16 crore population. There are Middle Eastern countries. In South East Asia, there are a number of countries that are Muslim majority.
"We want to provide all software solutions to those countries. We will develop both feature and smart phones for Muslim people," he said. "They are our major target customers. Then we will extend our services around the world."
Lee said Samsung chose Bangladesh to set up the R&D centre due to its abundant cheap labour and huge population.
"Bangladesh is one of the populous countries in the world. We believe that there are a lot of talents in the country, but there is no multinational company here to tap their potential. It will be easy to hire talented people."
"We also do not have R&D centre in any Muslim country. We need such centre in one of the Muslim countries to extend our R&D scope."
SBRC is now working on projects provided by its headquarters, where its brands products are manufactured. But Lee said the Dhaka centre has to develop a good number of ideas.
"Every other R&D centre has its own characteristics. We also have to have our own characteristics. By next year, we will have to propose our projects."
"By 2012, we will start performing independently, as there is competition among R&D centres within Samsung. If we cannot generate ideas then we will have no speciality. We will only have to complete projects of headquarters."
Lee, who was educated in computer science at Yonsei University in Korea, believes if his venture succeeds then other multinational companies would consider setting up such centres in Bangladesh.
He urged the government to offer tax reductions for long-time to companies who want to set up R&D centres in the country.
Last year Samsung spent US$4.5 million to set up offices and bear other expenditures. This year, the spending could reach $6 million.