Move over Silicon Valley – new Startup Ventures are in South Korea

South Korea has grown with incredible speed since the 1970s, and now represents the tenth largest economy in the world. Currently, the country is one of the global leaders in the high-technology industry with leading technology suppliers, such as Samsung and LG, calling Korea home. South Korea also has a strong base of wide format manufacturers that are not only known in country, but throughout the world.

With an established wealth of knowledge in the tech industry and a new shifting mindset for start-ups, South Korea provides a unique opportunity for vendors seeking to enter the marketplace. South Korea has historically been a country that culturally had a strong stigma when it came to business failure. Those that worked in a stable job in an office setting were considered to have the most desirable careers. However, this is changing as the South Korean President Park Geun-hye is encouraging the growth of start-ups and the start-up culture within her country by pledging $2.91 billion U.S. dollars to support the growth of a Silicon Valley of their own. The investment is clearly working, with over 28,763 starts-up registered at the end of February 2013; this number has nearly doubled from 2008 according to the Korea Venture Business Association.

So what does this boom in start-ups mean to wide format vendors and OEMs? These start-ups are only going to help drive growth in the Korean economy. New businesses and innovation centers will fuel demand for wide format printing services, such as interior/exterior coverings, signage, décor, and POP displays. Equipment and supplies manufacturers have the opportunity to work with print services providers to meet the demands of a new growing market.

Before jumping into any geographic market, it is important to have an understanding of that culture’s inner workings. Korea has several major domestic wide format equipment and supplies manufacturers, including DGI, Dilli, Dyss, Inktec, and Scorpion. New entrants into the market must be aware of these key local players as they are all active within the domestic and global wide format market. Large global leaders, such as HP, Epson, Roland, and Mimaki, are highly sought after within the Korean market because of their reputation for high quality image production and the durability of the printers. According to InfoTrends’ country expert Chang Yoon—HP, Canon, Epson, Mimaki, Mutoh, Roland, and EFI make up 90% of the supplies market.

With so many vendors competing in a small market, internal competition is high and quality is valued over price. Vendors that are entering this market must understand that a first impression is everything to Korean investors—especially when it comes to overall quality of a device. An example of this are the Chinese printer manufacturers that are trying to grow in the Korean market. One might think that, with their close proximity and favorable pricing, the Chinese would have an advantage in Korea; however, the Chinese have yet to succeed due to a stigma with previous, poor quality Chinese models that were released in Korea in the early 2000s.

“Competitive,” “growing,” and “expanding” are all words that describe the status of the Korean economy. With the growth of a start-up culture in Korea, it is very possible that what was once considered a replacement market for wide format printers will again become a growth market. For more information on the Korean market and how to establish a presence there, we strongly encourage you to read our Emerging Wide Format Markets: South Korea.

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