When we think of Samsung, the first thing that comes to mind is probably a mobile phone or a TV set. But the greatness of the Korean giant goes beyond the latest consumer products.
In 1938, at age 28, a young Korean gentleman by the name of Lee Byung-chul founded Samsung, citing the hanja word Samsung, meaning “three stars”.
Initially the business was trading with grocery stores and counted 40 employees. By introducing new products and service, in the 1950s the company was stretching across multiple industries, including insurance, securities and retail.
It was only in the late 1960s that Samsung ventured into electronics. The first product released on the market — in 1970 — was a black-and-white 12’ TV set.
In 1983, Samsung released the first computer, two years ahead of the first Windows computer. From there they ventured in all sort of industries and technologies.
In the 1990s the started producing cars, until the merger with Renault in early 2000, created the Renault Samsung Motors company.
By keep introducing products globally, they became one of the most versatile companies in human history.
Today Samsung is everywhere. From wearable products, to microchips. Samsung is in fact one of the world’s largest microchips manufactures. So much that Apple iPhone started by using Samsung produced chips. In 2011, Samsung became, and still is, the largest mobile phone manufacturer.
From 2006 onwards, they are also the largest TV manufacturers, and today control 98 per cent of the AMOLED displays market (the screen technology that does not require back lighting to project images).
Recently, Samsung has also ventured in the production of drones, while the company was pioneer in Virtual Reality technology, with the famous headset gear. The budget for Research & Development allocated by Samsung last year alone was about $20 billion.
With nearly half a million employees, Samsung Group has more employees that Microsoft, Apple and Google combined.
In terms of revenues, Samsung as a group — with Samsung Electronics being just one of the over 80 entities — makes more than $300 billion yearly. In proportion, the latest revenues statement of Apple was $270, Google $160 billion and Microsoft $60 billion.
Besides the most well-known consumer products, Samsung is also heavily invested in constructions. Burj Khalifa in Dubai and the Petronas Towers in Malaysia were built by Samsung.
Koreans are quite accustomed to purchase financial services and insurance products offered by Samsung.
Every year, Samsung donates $100 million to the medical centres and research facilities that they founded.
When I visited Korea the last time — a few weeks before the pandemic stopped all my travel ambitions — I noticed how proud Koreans were of their beloved Samsung.
It reminded me of how my friend in the US tend to buy iPhone as mobile phone of preference. Both are tapping on the sense of belonging that the presence of an economic miracle represents for a country.
(The writer is a member of the International Press Association)