I get that a post praising Samsung seems oddly timed in the wake of the lost lawsuit with Apple (although they are appealing – and promising to bring it all the way to the US Supreme Court, should it come to that), but the reality is that they are a $145B Consumer Giant that often gets the shaft in Apple’s presence. Here’s the thing, though: They went up against Apple. Sure, so they lost – but Samsung is a force to be reckoned with, and I think it’s time we all gave the company a little bit more credit.
Photo Credit: Stephane <3
Why Focus on Samsung?
Over the past couple of years, we have all witnessed the rise, plateau, and decline of many firms. Borders, Blockbusters, Kodak, Nokia, Sony, and HP were all, at one time or another, leaders in their respective field (just look at that list – it’s really staggering when you think about it). One by one, they have failed to adapt to the evolving landscape – be it the power of online shopping or the integration of photography and phones.
These companies show us the writing on the wall – that success does not depend just on the ability to adapt to circumstance, but to innovate creatively regardless of circumstances. Examples of this are Apple, IBM, Twitter, Pinterest, Walmart, and Amazon. Yet one of the more underreported stories is the rise of this South Korean Giant – Samsung Group. From Samsung Heavy Industries to their Security & Military branch, Samsung Techwin, to the familiar Samsung Electronics, Samsung has become the very definition of a multidimensional company that seeks to become a trend maker in the global markets.
A Unique History
In 1938, South Korean Lee Byung-Chull started a regional food exporting company in Taegu, Korea. After surviving the Japanese Occupation, World War II, and the North Korean invasion (seriously, are they planning on doing a movie any time soon?), Byung-Chull started anew in a sugar refinery outside Busan, South Korea. Byung-Chull would expand his business into a wide range of enterprises, moving into businesses such as insurance, securities, and retail, with Byung-Chull emphasizing industrialization as the pathway to growth. It would be in the turn of the decade, that Samsung would enter the electronic industry, producing its first black-and-white TV (model P-3202, 1970). From there Samsung would grow into a conglomerate, starting and expanding its way into technological research, chemical-heavy industry, clean-energy infrastructure, and 20+ other industries.
How Did It Happen?
How then, did a company started in the midst of a ruined third-world country rise up to now be challenging “the most valuable company of all time,” Apple? The answer lies in Samsung’s ability to recognize, as well as their ability to adapt. These elements have contributed to their success – giving them a revenue rate of $220.1 billion last year, a 27.59% growth in revenue from the year before, and a profit growth of 53.6 % (from 2009-2010).
Recognizing Your Market, and Adapting:
Byung-Chull renewed his business in the wake of massive social upheaval and instability. Shifting gears from a food-trading firm into industry, Byung-Chull gave Samsung a key insight: recognize the industry and go after it. Samsung’s history has reflected this mindset – of seeing the next big thing and quickly modifying the current mechanics of the company to fit it.
Seeing where Samsung has landed, it’s hard to believe that it all started from a sugar refinery – but that information is imperative to understanding Samsung’s success. Entrepreneurs know – most likely firsthand – that adapting and evolving is essential for success. The genius behind Samsung’s success has been the ability to jump on market trends early enough to corner a sizeable chunk of– well, whatever market they are currently targeting.
In the current struggle for Smartphone supremacy, Samsung recognized its advantage would be to overwhelm its competitors with a variety of different models. This was perhaps one of Samsung’s greatest turns at adaptation. Whereas Apple is compelled to release one new phone a year, Samsung has wisely realized there is a market for alternatives. Working with Google’s Android OS, Samsung has been able to build a market base that can give them the push to edge into Apple’s territory of high-end consumer electronics. Can’t afford the iPhone? No problem – we’ve got the Android, and what’s more – an entire line of varying models to choose from.
The ultimate result of Samsung’s adaptation abilities? Stock options were looking more promising than Apple’s, until, well – the lawsuit news, obviously. But more on that later.
A Dose of Reality
So what about Samsung’s ability to innovate? Because really – when we look at the list of successful-despite-the-odds companies, their real genius is in innovation. Samsung certainly innovated the Smartphone market, but what about their product? With the court’s ruling that Samsung infringed on Apple’s “trade dress,” they’ll need to step it up a notch to prove that they are the leaders – and not the followers – when it comes to innovation.
The reality is that besides Apple, Samsung was the only (Android) manufacturer making money. This recent ruling could be the turning point – either for greatness or for destruction.
Samsung has proved they can recognize the market’s moves. They have proved to be a pillar of adaptation. But can they continue to adapt under such circumstances? Will Samsung ultimately prove their innovation ability?
Samsung’s Next Move
Of course the question on everyone’s minds is: “What will Samsung do next?”
Your guess is as good as mine, but one thing is clear: the world is watching. Closely.
- What do you think Samsung’s ultimate outcome will be? Is the writing on the wall for the company, or is this just another feat against oppression in their long history?
- How has your company recognized and adapted the market?