Sim Bong, Laser Corporation country manager, is an accessories man. He shares his pen-and-paper theories with Amanda Sachtleben, and fesses up about his geeky gadget addiction.
When did you come to New Zealand and how did you end up in IT?
I’m originally from Indonesia, and I was probably one of the first Asians to come and study here in 1989. I was majoring mostly in finance and management so I never thought I’d end up in the IT industry. My career started when I was doing a university project doing company analysis. They ended up extending my contract for about 18 months.
What roles have you held since then?
My first full-time role was a sales and marketing coordinator with Tech Rentals and then I became the marketing manager. I started off doing simple stuff with PCs — 486s and Pentium 1s. In the mid-1990s, during the dot com boom, there was a lot of stuff happening, with routers and things. From there I moved to Renaissance and that’s where I learned a lot about channel management, the distribution business and vendor relationships. I worked a lot in the security and networking area and I know it very well. Renaissance has grown a lot in that area since then and that’s where I started up — I introduced Sonicwall to them in about 2001. People still know me as the Sonicwall man in New Zealand. Then I went to Trend Micro in 2005 — I’d been in the distribution market for a while and I wanted to move into the vendor space.
Why did you choose to set up Laser in New Zealand?
Because I looked after small and medium businesses for Trend Micro, I couldn’t actually meet their expectation even though I grew the business. The scale on New Zealand’s side compared with Australia and even the US isn’t as big. I just decided it wasn’t going to work out for me. Trend Micro’s brand is very strong in New Zealand but the opportunity at Laser came up and they were looking for someone who could set up their operation here, who knew the channel.
How will you look to position Laser here?
I’m looking at a broader side of the IT industry. The internet is becoming very big and with Laser I look at us as the stationery for the internet. We’re becoming like the pen and pencil and we’re focused on the accessories side. I think there’s an opportunity for accessories to work very well — there’s a lot of stationery shops around in New Zealand and Laser has become very well known in Australia. My challenge will be to bring the Laser brand to New Zealand, so it’s like others that are well known.
Do you think New Zealanders are gadget people?
They’re certainly early adopters and they love new technology. A lot of manufacturers or vendors use New Zealand as an incubator.
What big trends do you see in the accessories business?
It’s evolving so much and there are always different types coming out. Look at the pen and paper — they haven’t changed, it’s only the look and feel, and sometimes the quality. One day there might be an infrared keyboard. It’s more a fashion thing now; people want better-looking products with more appeal.
What parts of your role do you like best?
I like the marketing and planning, managing my channel and how they can see the brand becoming part of them so they can make money.
Laser plans to target mass retailers here. How will that compare with your Trend Micro role working among SMEs?
This will be like starting from ground zero and building up the customer base. I know a lot of the SMEs but they’re not really a big target market for Laser. I’ll be building up my contacts in retail, but it’s good to also have Ingram Micro, which is very strong in the retail channel here, and can help me out. With my understanding of what customers want, I can help them, too.
What are your priorities leading up to the official launch in July?
Right now it’s about branding. People are calling me up and I need to let them know I’m with Laser. The launch is to tell everyone we’ve arrived here and we need to find out the right plan and the right customers. It’s a very competitive industry but everything’s very competitive anyway.
What keeps you busy outside work?
I’m a workaholic, but I also play golf — that’s the only sport I play because I’m hopeless at other games like basketball or rugby. I like golf because it’s calm. I’m also still geeky. I’ve got plenty of routers I play around with at my office at home. I’ve got so many gadgets and at the moment I’m right into streaming video and satellite TV. I’ve been trying to find a way not to spend a lot of money on the World Cup. I’m not trying to be a pirate or anything, just trying to find the right frequencies to get transmission.