4 June 2008
A New Voice(HKTDC Electronics, Vol 02,2008)
The management of well-established telephone manufacturer Suntra Int'l Development Ltd believes in reading the market and focusing on the future.
Founded in 1993, the company originally made straightforward telephone handsets for the North American market, supplying major discount department store chains such as Wal-Mart and Family Dollar.
"We have more than 14 years' experience in designing, developing and manufacturing, but we changed our strategy in 2002," stresses Assistant Manager Marketing Jackie K.W. Leung.
"There are a lot of competitors in China, and ultimately it became impossible to compete on price so we switched to making hi-tech phones."
Suntra has always prided itself on a forward-thinking approach to technology, and its model RR-208 Picture Phone won an award for innovation at the CES consumer electronics show in Las Vegas in 1998.
The company's change of direction came at exactly the right time to take advantage of the growing interest in Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony, which allows inexpensive voice communication over the World Wide Web.
There is growing demand, says Mr Leung, for telephones that allow users to take full advantage of this technological breakthrough without having to boot up a computer.
"They started getting popular about five years ago," he says, adding that Suntra tries to build VoIP phones as similar as possible to regular phones. "We're trying to copy all the functions."
The firm has always believed that the phone's most basic requirement must be ease of use, and its VoIP phones are accordingly designed to require no complex set-up procedures.
"Providing the user has an account with one or more Internet Service Providers, all he or she has to do is plug the phone in and key in a number," Mr Leung explains.
Units such as models 8201, 8790, and 8722 VoIP phones are usually pre-programmed with the necessary network protocols and require no additional power supply as they are Power Over Ethernet (POE) compatible.
Suntra also has a solution for users who prefer to stick with telephones they know, manufacturing two compact ATA-8111 and SP-8212 Analog Telephone Adaptors that feature advanced audio processing to ensure a clear and comprehensible signal.
"Our cheapest VoIP phone model is FOB Hong Kong US$39.50 and our most expensive is US$43.50 for minimum order quantities of 2,000 units delivered in 60-90 days," Mr Leung says, adding that the adaptors are priced from US$47.50 for similar minimum orders and lead times.
The company currently offers a range of phones on an OEM/ODM basis, some of which are built to the customer's own design while others are developed exclusively for a single customer.
Suntra also has its own R&D programme to develop phones for customers. "We build 31 OEM models for our customers, and about eight ODM versions," states Mr Leung, adding that the firm is trying to push ODM. "We have no plans at present to establish our own brand, preferring to focus on providing an affordable but premium standard of service."
Manufacturing takes place at Suntra's ISO 9001-certified, 84,000-square-foot factory in Dongguan on the Chinese mainland, where about 300 workers operate two production lines.
"Our capacity depends on the complexity of the models, but normally we can produce around 1,000 phones per day," Mr Leung explains.
"We have another production floor on which we can put another two production lines, so we are planning to expand."
He believes that production capacity will be about 100,000 telephones per month when all four production lines are running, and notes the benefits of economy of scale.
"Our cost is perhaps not the lowest in the market but we maintain consistency between our quality and production cost, thus making it perfect value for each dollar," Mr Leung asserts.
The US and Canada continue to be major markets, but the company has also built up export business with South America and Germany, and closer to home in Korea.
It also does "some business" with Australia, producing lower-tech standard phones with large buttons intended for the use of the elderly and disabled, and manufactures a Braille phone for the blind. "We're planning to target the China market, but we're at an early stage in that process," Mr Leung confides.
TEXT BY ROBERT PIERCE