5 Oct 2007
Caring Communications(HKTDC Electronics, Vol 03,2007)
|Home electronic communications and lifestyle products innovator Topcom Asia Ltd emphasises innovative design, product quality and reasonable pricing|
Home electronic communications and lifestyle products innovator Topcom has an ambitious plan - to be the "leading solutions provider in the areas of communication and lifecare for consumers and small offices".
Its Hong Kong arm, Topcom Asia Ltd, has a key role to play in that strategy, according to Office Manager Frederik Vanden Bulcke. "In the beginning a lot of data products were coming from Taiwan, but now it's mostly from the Chinese mainland," he observes.
Mr Vanden Bulcke says Topcom outsources all its production, which provides flexibility in terms of products and pricing. "We deal only with the few leading manufacturers in each product range," he assures.
Founded in Belgium in 1991, the company's communication products include Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) telephones, Internet telephony technology, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) accessories, wireless routers, Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) modems, corded telephones and walkie-talkies.
Lifecare products include blood pressure monitors, thermometers, baby monitors, video baby monitors, sports watches, nutrition scales, bike computers, heartbeat monitors and others.
Topcom's focus, says Mr Vanden Bulcke, is on helping end-users in their daily lives. "Our technology must be easy to install and simple to use," he insists.
Already well-established in Europe, Topcom has global expansion plans. "We are setting up distributorships in the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America," Mr Vanden Bulcke notes.
The company is consolidating its different sub ranges. "Babycare becomes Topcom Kids, and health care will also get a specific sub-brand," he explains. "We're trying to expand in products, markets and branding in general."
Much of this responsibility will fall on Topcom's Hong Kong office, which was established in 2004 to enhance quality control but quickly expanded into sales and marketing - particularly OEM services, which include customised designs of products and gift boxes.
"We also handle OEM orders where customers want their brand name - the minimum order is 1,000-3,000 pieces depending on the product," Mr Vanden Bulcke adds.
Delivery time from confirmation of order is usually 6-8 weeks, which Mr Vanden Bulcke claims is typical during the current economic boom, which has increased pressure of demand on raw materials and components.
FOB prices cover a wide range. "We're talking about US$11 or US$11.50 for an entry-level DECT model, depending on quantities, while high-end products cost US$30-35," he explains. "The high end includes Skype-enabled products, which retail at US$150 or more and are US$85-90 FOB Hong Kong."
Skype VoIP services are a relatively recent telecommunications development, but they have attracted a huge number of customers and Topcom has made developing technology to use the system a priority.
"We've focused on Skype for about two years," Mr Vanden Bulcke avers. "We are an official partner of Skype, and most of our products are Skype-certified."
Although most Skype communications still take place via desktop or laptop computers, Topcom has developed a range of phones such as the WebT@lker 5000 and 6000 that directly access the Internet.
"The software is embedded into the phone, and the user automatically receives Skype's software upgrades over the phone," says Mr Vanden Bulcke.
Voice quality is high, he claims, and the WebT@lker 5000's speakerphone function makes it a useful tool for conference calls. "We are investigating the possibility of equipping it with a webcam," Mr Vanden Bulcke reveals.
Topcom was one of the first to produce embedded phones, he claims, conceding that Skype products are still a novelty while other products simply sell themselves.
"What is selling really well is big button phones with a bigger display," Mr Vanden Bulcke notes. "The world has a growing population of senior citizens and these products tap into a segment of the public that has a need for these features."
Lifecare products such as blood pressure monitors are also selling really well. "People are becoming more health- conscious and they want to keep track of their fitness," he says.
Mr Vanden Bulcke is confident that by continuing to place a strong emphasis on innovative design, product quality and reasonable pricing, Topcom will be able to integrate more and more of its products into the lifestyles of consumers around the world.
"We always offer a full range of products from low- to high-end - that's a big part of our strategy," says Mr Vanden Bulcke, adding that Topcom can be flexible on price but also tries to combine it with features, quality and design excellence.
"It all comes down to offering the public a product it needs, which is of good design, user-friendly and not too expensive," Mr Vanden Bulcke concludes. "It's really a question of the right products at the right time."
TEXT BY ROBERT PIERCE
Topcom Asia Ltd