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Mr Vu Thanh Thang is Vice President at the Hardware Division of Bkav Corporation and Director of SmartHome. Bkav is in the top 20 famous brand names nominated by National Office of Intellectual Property of Vietnam, and is Vietnam’s leading firm in network security, software, smartphone manufacturing, smarthome appliances and Cloud Computing services. In the field of network security, antivirus and mobile security, their software is present in more than 100 countries worldwide. Bkav is also the 1st Vietnamese firm listed in Garner’s Cool Vendors in emerging markets. They have branches in Singapore and in Sillicon Valley of the US.
Bkav has invested 10 years into researching and developing the Smart Home system, and the Vietnam corporate powerhouse sells this system under their subsidiary SmartHome. It is a system in which homes are connected and controlled digitally, creating a connected, secure and convenient living environment for homeowners. SmartHome is the only product of Vietnam to have attended CeBIT, the world’s largest communications and IT exhibition in German in March, 2014. The Columnist sits down with Mr. Vu to find out what their secret behind their success is.
The Columnist (TC): Smart Home is the product launched by Bkav in 2010 after 7 years of research. What was the inspiration behind this product and the vision for Smart Home in the Vietnam market and globally?
Vu Thanh Thang (VTT): Up to now, we are proud to have had 10 years experience researching and developing the Smart Home system. The inspiration for our product is very simple. As Bkav is a leading software corporation in Vietnam, we are always inspired to create products that can be global leaders. Also, the world is changing and we see smart home systems to be an inevitable trend. This explains why we decided to penetrate the global market.
In Vietnam, we have a number of big-sized clients applying our SmartHome system. As our strategy is to bring our products to global users, in 2013 we introduced our products at the Sitex exhibition in Singapore and in March, 2014, we attended the world’s largest communications and IT exhibition, CeBIT. Bkav SmartHome introduced our complete smart home solution to the exhibition.
TC: In Vietnam, SmartHome face challenges of a harsh competition with products of global leaders like iBMS by IBM and CCRE by Cisco. In your opinion, what is the competitive advantage of Bkav SmartHome?
VTT: Since the early periods of our research and development of the system, we have established that the market-positioning of our product should be that of a global competitor. Therefore, we have to identify our advantage and differentiating factors to survive in such a market. Regarding the other home systems developed by the international companies, their background is either in electronics or automation. Therefore, their products are designed and developed from an engineering standpoint. As their product focus on automation, the control software will not be user-friendly and hard to scale up as they require cable systems to connect with other devices. For us, our background is a software company, and we develop software based on human experiences. For example, the control software is designed with 3D technology which offers users an easy and comfortable control scheme. Also, we design and predict all the scenarios that users come up with. Besides, the fact that we are using wireless system like wifi and ZigBee helps the execution become scalable, easy to set up and cost-saving.
TC: It can be said that with SmartHome, Bkav is Vietnam’s trailblazer in developing smart home devices and systems in the global market. So what is Bkav’s strategy to introduce the products to global customers as well as to creatively engage customers?
VTT: We have more than 12 years of experience in developing and selling software and hardware products. Currently, our customer base is approximately 12 million. Our antivirus and mobile security softwares is present in more than 100 countries all over the world. Therefore, we are confident in our ability to market our smart home products and continously engage with customers. Our strategy is based on our focus on our customers. Their feedback and experiences are central and a benchmark for us to create better products and services, as well as to design suitable marketing campaigns that they can connect with.
TC: Bkav SmartHome is the system in which every equipment in a home is connected and controlled via touch screen or tablet. How do your designers and engineers guarantee the product is user-friendly and customers can really enjoy holistic comfortable experience?
VTT: Users’ experience is our top priority while researching and experimenting our product. The convenience, comfort and modern life-style elements are what we focus on to make our products better and better. To make sure the products are user-friendly and good enough before launching in the market, we set up experimental smarthome systems at our staff’s homes. It is very important that our staff experiences our products in the shoes of the customer. We then receive and consider all of their feedback and contributions to design the best experience. Also, to increase the quality of the products we use CNC technology to make the cover of the devices and Gorilla Glass to make the glass surface for example. These are technologies that are used in producing the best smartphones as well.
TC: To create holistic experiences for users, it is vital that the product development team considers every customers’ data in a diverse range of viewpoints. Can you share more about how this team developed this products?
VTT: Bkav customer service system can assist up to 20 million customers. After the product is launched in the market, this customer service department of Bkav continously receives and update customers’ feedbacks and passes this information to the research and development team. The team then analyzes the data to see how they react with the system to continously update new functions in SmartHome. This process helps all updates in our products to be carefully considered, practical and useful for our users.
TC: In your opinion, what is the role of corporate culture in encouraging staff to innovate and contribute breakthrough ideas? Could you share strategies of Bkav to encourage staff to collaborate and innovate to create better products?
VTT: In my opnion, the corporate culture is the basis for every company to survive. It affects where the organisation is going, even going as far as defining the destiny of the organisation. In Bkav, we are especially respectful of this and devote our time into building up our corporate culture. We struggle a lot to make staff feel like the company is their second home. We have some rituals and practices that is typical of our organization. For example, every staff is encouraged to take off their shoes before entering the the office, and every employee has personal lockers to store personal items. Every morning, we have our Bkav morning bulletins to update everyone on our corprorate news, products, strategies, as well as our social updates. In the afternoon, we encourage every one to do some excercise to ensure everyone has a good health. These practices designed to make them feel like they are working at “home”. Besides, we encourage our people to follow corporate disciplines, and continuously improve their profession through internal training activities and courses. We consider these as the backbone for us to build up a strong foundation, as well as to give our people opportunities to come up with innovative ideas all the time.
TC: Besides SmartHome, Bkav recently joined OTT market with the launch of the Btalk application, which emphasizes that Bkav is the leading Vietnamese firm that is making effort to move up the global value chain of global technology and data. What is the vision for Btalk?
VTT: Btalk (an OTT application) is part of our eco-system of Bkav products. We developed Btalk as a new telecommunication application that supports present and upcoming products of Bkav. We intend to create a ecosystem of products to our users who currently use our network security software, SmartHome, and other services. We hope that together with our hardware products, the ecosystem of products that we offer will help Vietnamese people to enjoy the world-class services developed by Vietnamese, for Vietnamese.
TC: Do you have any advice for Vietnamese enterprises on how to leverage Big Data to create smarter products for the market?
VTT: The incredible strength of data is changing the world and threatens the position of traditional giants. The emergence and success of tech firms like Google, Facebook and Apple, who are not 100 year old companies, affirms this global change. This global shift also means that there are a lot of opportunities for Vietnamese companies, as well as those of other countries, to make the most of technologies available and pair it with a clear strategy that takes advantage of data. Together with a strong motivation to move forward, they will eventually succeed.