The Perils of Low Price

They invariably invaded the market vehemently, with promotion price that seemed to last forever. Low price was their only “weapon”. They swept the market and left the branded but less competitive products wept at a corner, praying for their lives.

Their success has made them stand tall for quite some times, until the next low-price predator marched in to give them a blow. There’s no loyalty, the market will embrace the predator without hesitation, turning the predecessor another vulnerable prey. Their dying cries of so-called better “quality” and “support” than the new rival has no appeal, because it never was in the consideration list and it was never offered before.

The truth of the matter is, price beats price.

There will always be some cheaper priced products out there. Big companies manufacture low price products by running production 24-hour a day, volume component purchases and low labor costs. Size does matter; that’s the economy of scale.

But small companies can sometimes do things miraculously. They offer almost the same quality products with even lower prices. They're like cockroaches when the mighty falls; they’d survive for another million years. To them, size does not matter; survivor instinct prevails.

Whether size does or does not matter, the logic is, price is easily beaten by price. Since price is their only “weapon”, the strategy of the battle has always come down to price war and instead of bringing them benefits; they gain so little even they won the battle.

I was informed that in some countries where price is being made a more sensitive issue than religion, due to the economic downturn, new competitors can easily pound on the same door using the same strategy, initiating a fiercer price war than ever.

Desmond Wong (left) and me

Desmond Wong, executive director of AMTC, a distributor, flew from Sabah (East Malaysia) to visit FingerTec last week, told me that they have been approached and offered with some products from China frequently, undoubtedly lower price than FingerTec.

“I welcome their price discount, but afraid the same discount would apply to software features, service and product quality and reliability.”

After we chatted a little longer, he finally broke into a big grin. “I can make better profit with FingerTec because the customers could feel the worth. If I sell China products, I have to succumb to market force by lowering my profit margin.”

And now it was my turn to break into a big grin thinking of the reality of the situation. Despite the economy downturn, AMTC's FingerTec sales improved by 60% last year.

FingerTec is not an alliance in the price war; in fact we choose to stay impartial. When two China products engage in a price war, we are always not included; but when the sales being awarded, we are not always excluded.

Why so? Because price is not our only strategy, we have many.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

They invariably invaded the market vehemently, with promotion price that seemed to last forever. Low price was their only “weapon”. They ...


The Business of Attendance

Monday 25 January 2010 0 Comments

My long lost friend asked me last week about my job. I told her that I’m in fingerprint business for attendance and door access. She was surprised to know that taking attendance could be a thriving business. Working as a high-school teacher, taking attendance comes naturally; they can even do it subconsciously! Every teacher in Malaysia has to prepare an attendance book for students. Students names must be handwritten in black ink and capital letters only, and the taking of attendance has to be done manually, in other words, Teacher shouts -- “so and so, are you there?” student answer -- “yes/no, teacher”. After sometimes, the teachers need to submit some kind of attendance reports to the principal. I’m not sure whether the report also must be handwritten in black ink and in caps but they do need to submit some kind of report to the principal. I feel for the teachers who have to do a lot of work for attendance taking and perhaps a lot of answering when the attendance reports showing a lot of absences. On top of the overwhelming workload, what’s with the handwriting only?
Cleverly, I suggested to her the use of biometrics system to only receive the biggest laugh of all time. “Why do you think the government would want to spend money on biometrics system when they can use every biometrics in our body to take students’ attendance, literally for free” she asked me. Of course, she said it jokingly. But again, what’s so funny about automating attendance to monitor student’s attendance? Perhaps it would cost a fortune, perhaps that would mean a colossal change to the system, perhaps it’s easier said than done but logically speaking, biometrics is an effective way to take attendance. We have been in the business of attendance since 10 years ago and the demand (for attendance system) is escalating every year. The reason for the business world is simple. Your time is my money. But even more than that, automated attendance is indeed automated. No more manual work, no more writing attendance in Capital letters, no more counting days of absence, no more burden or work in that area. And at the end of the month, reports can be printed with precise data and information.
I can’t simply surrender. I annoyed her more. “The government promotes the use of IT and IT shouldn’t be just a theory, it should be practical. Biometrics is one way to make IT practical. What’s with the old school manual attendance?” Data communication through network is awesome. Distance is not a factor anymore and updates can be obtained in a matter of minutes. “If we could use biometrics as attendance and link the data to text parents the whereabouts of their kids, that would be a breakthrough. That’s the power of IT,” I continued. She looked at me with a smile on her chubby face, “Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, we (teachers) called an electrician to come for some electrical works in the teacher’s room and the service cost was RM60. He had to fill in a few forms, fought with at least two clerks and ended up not getting paid instantly. So, you go figure.” “I’d welcome the system so much but at this point in time, the students have to listen to my biometrics voice”.
When everything else fails..

by Norana Johar, COO, FingerTec HQ

My long lost friend asked me last week about my job. I told her that I’m in fingerprint business for attendance and door access. She was s...


Is This A Farewell?

Ms Regielou Rolloque

FingerTec threw a farewell party for Regielou Rolloque last month, but this farewell seems a little weird to me. Yes, she left, flew back to her home country the Philippines on 2nd January 2010; but she’s not actually leaving us; she is in fact still working full time for FingerTec.

As usual, she has to write a weekly report to the management, follow-up the sales inquiries, handling her Spanish-speaking clients through MSN, Skype and email.

I remember the first time she arrived in Malaysia two years ago during Christmas Day; she appeared timid and introverted. Was she going to survive for two years?

No problem, the friendly working environment and the helpful colleagues here would melt her heart. I told myself.

In two years, her soft-spoken Spanish tongue has melted the Latin American’s hearts too.

Whether she works from Malaysia or the Philippines, there seems to be no difference to our clients. And to us too. It’s just that, without physical presence, her colleagues need to assist her in some administration works from Malaysia.

This is the power of the Internet. And FingerTec sales and support system centers around it, tightening the screws at all ends, fine-tuning the user-experience for both resellers and end users, adding more value from time to time to the platform.

The result is apparent. The virtual has delivered more tangible results than the brick-and-mortar.

One day when Regielou came to me and told me, she missed her home, and she likes her job. Immediately I knew my answer.

You’re free to go home, and you can keep your job.

But you have to visit us once a year, because the colleagues here miss you, too.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

Ms Regielou Rolloque FingerTec threw a farewell party for Regielou Rolloque last month, but this farewell seems a little weird to ...


Consistency Paid Off

I have a few weekly columns in some local dailies. And the longest period of column I had ever written lasted three years, published every Monday, totaled 156 articles without a single lapse. Despite my busy work schedule, I still accepted an invitation from a tabloid to contribute critique once a week, and it has been a continuous eight months now.

Inconsistency has always killed any brilliant new plan halfway through. In the contrary, consistency is THE key to a successful implementation of any plans. I'm proud of our FingerTec monthly newsletter, since the first issue was published and disseminated in February 2007; we never missed a single issue over the past 3 years, despite the extra workload and rushing for deadline drew excessive pressure to our staff, when their hands were usually tight, and minds were usually prioritize with some other promises to customers.

Because of our persistence, we maintain consistency and we take care of the content’s quality at the same time. I witness many companies much larger than us, even with a team of dedicated sub-editors, normally had a fine start but slowly lost their momentum and passion as the time went by. We only have our team of sales and technical personnel contribute their writings and assist with the editing of the FingerTec monthly newsletter for the past three long years; and my gratitude to them is beyond words.

One close friend of mine once commented, “Consistency is important, but the virtue can be more valuable if you tie it with some sales strategies rather than a mere newsletter.”

“But newsletter is one of our very effective sales strategies,” I rebutted. The consistency of the newsletter is not just the only one thing we pursue. The fact that we never overlooked other areas such as the handling of sales and supports through our CRM system proves consistency. People shouldn’t be too shortsighted in business. Newsletter is a long-term commitment; an intimate relationship we build with our customers; the results might not be as straightforward but it’s beneficial in the long run.

In fact, besides the regular updates of our latest developments, Newsletter helps us to win over some potential leads that are selling other biometric products. It also serves as the checkpoints for our staff to contribute technical tips and marketing information to enrich our support websites regularly. Without the monthly newsletter, I can expect very rare updates of our relevant support websites, and the excuses would never be short of supply. Our Newsletter also provides a platform for our resellers worldwide to publish their stories, to announce their successful projects and have the opportunity to share with the others their FingerTec experience at no cost at all.

We improve the contents and design of our newsletter from time to time, and we have been meeting our deadlines earlier in order to publish the volume from the middle to early of the month. Furthermore, the consistency we pursue has slowly turned the process of publishing our newsletter into a habit, and the burden also has been replaced by responsibility. And we expect reading of the newsletter would also become a habit to our resellers.

I dare say that the consistency of our newsletter has improved FingerTec® image tremendously. A distributor from Africa came to the office every half year and she brought with her printed pages of our newsletter and asking for further explanation and updates on various topics. I don’t have a statistic to prove my bold statement, but from feedbacks I received and from my gut feelings, I know that this is true. My logic is simple, I reckon many people believe that, if FingerTec is serious about something they deemed less important, what about those significant matters? Go figure.

by Teh Hon Seng, CEO, FingerTec HQ

I have a few weekly columns in some local dailies. And the longest period of column I had ever written lasted three years, published every...


'Franchising’ FingerTec – Doing Business The FingerTec Way

Friday 1 January 2010 0 Comments

FingerTec Business Guidebook will be introduced in 2010. We don’t exactly plan to venture into franchising business. In fact, franchising is not exactly the proper word in this context but some parts of what we want to do match the term’s definitions. The common feature of a franchising business is creating the same experience for customers anywhere in the world. For example, Starbucks Caramel Macchiato in Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Jakarta have the same taste as the one in Malaysia. I’ve tasted the Macchiatos and they all taste the same. Starbucks stores look similar, the cups feel the same, and the pastries and cakes look the same and taste the same. McDonald’s, KFC, TGIF, Pizza Hut, Domino’s maintain similarities between franchises to let customers feel the same experience, regardless of location.

Same everywhere
The FingerTec Business Guidebook is intended to guide resellers to do FingerTec business the FingerTec Way. We want our customers to feel the same experience whether they are dealing directly with FingerTec or they are dealing with FingerTec resellers around the world. We have had visitors who found it hard to believe that we do almost everything using the Internet. The Internet is THE tool of the new millennium. For those who haven’t convinced about the power of the Internet have to make an appointment with psychiatrists because you have a serious problem with reality. The world has changed and it moves faster than before. We have made our millions with very little use of phone calls and meetings but we meet our customers A LOT on Skype and MSN. We discuss business in these social channels, we send millions of emails per year to our customers, and we send them links to our resources, videos, and newsletters to attend to their needs. We do take our customers’ needs very seriously but we attend to them the FingerTec Way.
Change is not easy. And asking you to change the way you do business perhaps is risky but this is not only theory. We have had years of experience doing business this way; it is proven fruitful. Some might think that we do not provide personalized service to our clients if everything is done virtually but I beg to have a different opinion. In this current world, personalization is very much happening in the virtual world because it’s less hassle and more effective. Banks have introduced online banking, online credit card payments are very much required to buy products from abroad, customer service have to be available online to support clients 24-hours, etc. More and more people are into online transactions and communications these days than ever before. The gist of the FingerTec Way is not only cost saving but it also info loaded program and very much client-friendly.

This is personal

In short, we want to create the FingerTec experience for all our customers worldwide via the FingerTec Way of doing business. And what’s the best way to inform all of our esteemed distributors and resellers, The FingerTec Business Guidebook. Of course.

by Norana Johar, COO, FingerTec HQ

FingerTec Business Guidebook will be introduced in 2010. We don’t exactly plan to venture into franchising business. In fact, franchising is...