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Exclusive Interview The

Exclusive Interview The onset of well-being products Korea’s Woongjin Coway continues to make inroads into world markets By Richard Barnes Last year saw the first appearance of Korean Wellness giant, Woongjin Coway at the IFA show, and this year, they are back in force. We asked CEO Joon-Kee Hong how successful the first edition was… Self-powered Bidet After last year’s IFA, we m a d e contracts with six European buyers and two Middle Eastern buyers, so we were very happy with the results. Compared to Samsung, LG, Panasonic or Electrolux, Woongjin Coway is the only company only showing Well-being products. Well-being is a megatrend these days. Increased use of water and air purifiers is a healthy tendency, and consumers are very interested to see these products at our stand. Compared to other major CE shows in the world, IFA is much more innovative through the fact that they are keen to put these products under the spotlight, while others still don’t understand their importance. How is business in general? They said that you will be the next “big thing from Korea” after LG and Samsung. How will you get there? Frankly speaking, our sales are not comparable to Samsung or LG, so it will take some time to arrive at the same revenue category as them. However, in our field of the wellness market, we are definitely dominant in Korea. We want to grow rapidly on a worldwide basis in this area. We know how and what to do and will be a BIG player in the global market. Well-being is well recognised as a category in Korea and Japan, but what about the rest of the world? 22

Exclusive Interview bidet / toilet seat, but it needs no power chord any more. In fact, it doesn’t even require a battery! When you flush the toilet, the water flows through the seat and generates power. It means you don’t have to plug into the power socket any more and there is no risk of electrical shock, short circuit or burning. Until now, it has been top secret, because nobody has ever come up with the idea before. My marketing team were a little worried about showing this at IFA, because everyone will try to copy us… but I believe this is an important advancement, and IFA is the best place to announce a world-first product such as this. but it’s taking more time than that, and the different customs in each country mean that people don’t always adopt products in the same way. Will wellness products, within a couple of years, sell as well as TVs? No, that’s impossible. But the wellbeing lifestyle is a megatrend. With pure water from our water purifiers, people’s health is improved. All the big CE companies are starting to move into the wellness area, because they can see the potential. In two or three years, it will be much bigger. How big? I don’t know. But between five and ten years, we hope it can become as big as TV! “In order to build the wellbeing product business area, we need to increase the awareness of customers” Joon-Kee Hong CEO - Coway Compared to a refrigerator or washing machine, a water purifier is not in the same category. In Japan and Korea, retailers understand this. However in Europe and the United States, they still don’t know, and a lot of education is needed. In order to build the wellbeing product business area, we need to increase the awareness of customers, and for this, we need good partners, like Bosch/ Siemens, Electrolux and GE. They have a strong brand and distribution channel, and with their power, they can let customers know about these kinds of wellbeing products. Take the case of the electronic bidet… nobody knows about it in Europe. Once people see the product in the stores, they think it’s amazing. What new, innovative products will we be seeing at IFA? We have one totally new product that I believe will be very well received. One of the reasons people shy away from buying electronic bidets is because of the installation issue. Also, in hotels and rest rooms, in the case there is no power outlet, it can be very difficult to install. Because of this, we have made a new product, which is a kind of electronic Where did the idea come from? My head! And then from our R&D division in Seoul. We had a lot of interest from around the world in the electronic bidet. In the case of Islamic people, they don’t use paper in the toilet, but use a washer. When they see our device, they think it’s perfect, but they didn’t want to buy until now, because the installation was too complex and needed electricity. As with anything electrical, there has also been a general problem in getting approval by state authorities for the “plug-in” electronic bidet. However with this new model, we will take the world market by storm, as the barriers have disappeared. We will have several other stylish new products at IFA, including our new “Cocktail Glass” shaped air filter, which we believe will do very well in Europe. It’s also worth noting that our air filters are able to kill virtually all known air-borne viruses, so these will also stir up a lot of interest. We also have a juice extractor which is very unique, and which is ready to sell in Europe. To conclude, how do you see the future of this industry? Four years ago, my expectation was that it would increase dramatically, IFA International • Saturday, 4 th & Sunday, 5 th September 2010 23

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