Slow electronics market growth a hindrance to tech investments

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By Charmaine A. Tadalan

SLOW MARKET growth for the electronics industry is a hindrance to the entry of Taiwan-based technology firms into the Philippines, officials of several companies said.

Wireless broadband solutions provider Browan Communications, Inc. and automobile components company Mobiletron Electronics Co., Ltd. said they have no plans of investing in the Philippines in the near future, while test and measurement firm Tenmars Electronics Co. Ltd. said it is still in the process of looking for distributors in the country.

“Business side, compared to other countries — for example, the TDM (text and data mining) companies in Europe actually bring a lot of business opportunities for us — but the market in the Philippines compared to others is slower, but I think it takes time,” Browan Business Division Senior Account Director Steve Lin said in the Taitronics 2019 pre-show media tour in their headquarters in Hsinchu, Taiwan on June 13.

Browan in July 2018 partnered with Filipino start-up company Packetworx, the first provider of the internet of Things (IoT) solutions in the Philippines. It offers various LoRaWan devices which provide “long-range sensor and control capability devices.”

When asked if Browan sees more investments in the Philippines, Mr. Lin said “for Philippines, I’m not sure so far, but as I mentioned, if there’s business, good and big enough, sure, we will consider.”

For Packetworx founder and chief executive officer Arnold Bagabaldo, to attract more investors to the Philippines, the government should provide the necessary infrastructure for IoT devices, among others.

Sa Philippines, para dumami ‘yung IoT devices…kailangan mo ng network, kailangan mo ng infrastructure para ma-connect ‘yung (In the Philippines, to increase the number of IoT devices, you need the network and infrastructure to connect the) devices to the internet,” Mr. Bagabaldo told BusinessWorld in a June 19 interview at the IoT Technology Hub in Pasig.

“The government plays a big role for that to happen, kasi ang (because the) policy is people invest in a country because they feel safe, they feel that their investment is supported they feel they have a chance, so a lot of that is support from the government.”

Moreover, Browan Product Line Manager Gordon Chang said there is growing sentiment among their consumers to build factories in Southeast Asia as a result of the trade war between the United States and China.

“I hear customers consider instead a factory in Vietnam or in the Philippines or Malaysia. In these three countries, they want to set up their factory there because of the trade war,” Mr. Chang said.

AcBel Polytech Inc., a Taiwanese power supply firm, likewise cited the trade war as reason for its move to expand its existing factories in Taiwan and the Philippines.

Mobiletron Electronics, which specializes in developing components for the automotive industry, said its market in the Philippines is “not so big.”

“You know if you want to build a subsidiary, we have to consider a lot of things — not only the support from the government but also we have to consider thinking about the culture and the employees and also like the facility there,” Mobiletron Electronics Director Robin Chen told foreign media in their office in Taichung, Taiwan on June 13.

“So far, I think for the Asian countries, it’s a good area for us to go there but…we don’t have too much concern to build up a subsidiary in the Philippines today.”

Mobiletron Electronics currently has subsidiaries in China, US and the United Kingdom.

Mr. Chen noted solar power supply may be a viable product in the Philippines in light of environment protection issues.

“Maybe in the future, maybe if we’re talking about energy storage system, that would be a good product for the Philippines in the future because of energy shortage and also you have more sunshine there, so we could think about solar panel and combine with our energy storage products,” he said.

Mobiletron Marketing and Sales Division manager Miriam Lu said one of its subsidiaries had previously distributed electronic buses in the Philippines. “We already worked with Philippines for E-Bus because of environment protection issues, so the government, we discussed with India, we discussed also with Indonesia, I remember also including the Philippines, this is something we can work with.”

Tenmars Electronics, meanwhile, said the company is still looking for importers that will carry their brand.

“Our chairman is looking for more customer to present our Tenmars logo, especially in the Asia market, like Korea, Japan, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia,” Tenmars Electronics International Sales Director Katy Wang told foreign media in a pre-show tour in their office in Taipei, Taiwan on June 11.

Tenmars manufactures test and measurement products like temperature or humidity data loggers, infrared thermometers, solar power meters, and air velocity meters, among others. It exports mainly to Europe, Japan and the United States.

Browan Communications, Mobiletron Electronics, Tenmars Electronics and AcBel Polytech are among the participants of this year’s Taitronics International Electronics Show hosted by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council, which will be held in Taipei on Oct. 16-18.