25 Aug 2006
Portable Memories(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 09,2006)
Starline Int'l Group Ltd
|Starline Int'l Group Ltd delivers quality consumer electronics at very low prices to customers worldwide|
Spotting a lively niche market can often lead to highly improved business, as 2004-established Starline Int'l Group Ltd found when it targeted the flash memory device market.
"We saw an opportunity in USB flash memory devices and went for it," says vice-president of sales and marketing Krzysztof Marszalek. "Two years on, we remain very much focused on memory devices but with a wider product portfolio that now includes MP3 players. Basically, we are fighting for a bigger market share."
He says Starline is a well-tuned organisation that aims to deliver quality consumer electronics at very low prices to customers worldwide. "In the sales process, we provide a level of support that is unprecedented in the industry," Marszalek claims.
"Our core competence is the NAND flash memory, a segment of the market that has experienced explosive growth over the last few years. We are widely recognised by both our respected competitors and valued customers as the most aggressive player in this market," he adds.
"Our customers are mainly IT distributors and wholesalers, while we also work with large retail accounts. At present 60% of our production is distributed in Europe, while other major regions include North America and Southeast Asia."
From the outset, Starline's marketing strategy was to offer highly competitive prices. "This approach got us into the market quickly and drew the attention of a lot of buyers," says Marszalek. "We built up our sales channels and today have more than 400 customers worldwide."
The success of this approach is seen in the sales figures. "Even though we are only in our second fiscal year, we are targeting a sales turnover close to US$100m for 2006," Marszalek says. "Our business is more than 90% OEM."
Assembling memory cards requires excellent relationships with chip suppliers, and Starline pays close attention to this aspect of the business. "We work mostly with Samsung and Hynix to ensure always being able to obtain supplies even at peak season," says Marszalek.
"Flash memory chips can be treated as commodity items these days, and prices fluctuate with supply and demand," he adds. "Fortunately, we are well-placed to take advantage of that."
He says that prices for chips can change several times in a single day. "As we are very close to the sources, we can keep our customers advised of fluctuations so that they, in turn, can exercise inventory control and purchasing planning in a timely manner."
Marszalek admits that Starline does not have a monopoly on flash memory devices. "There are other suppliers," he says, "but we do try hard to differentiate ourselves with competitive prices and excellent customer service."
"We have also set up a design studio in Poland, and with the first concepts already off the drawing board and into first stages of production we believe we can start to offer more unique lines," he adds. "The aim is get our new products to market before the peak season."
All flash drives - also called pen drives or memory sticks - are very similar in terms of hardware. "The major difference is in the design, which is why we have assembled a large portfolio of unique, quality designs with concepts closer to European tastes."
The Starline range starts from the tiny 16MB size suitable for personal use and as a premium item, and climbs to a 4GB card that retails for about US$70 each.
Production takes place at Starline's 300-worker, 40,000-square-foot factory in Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland. Business is conducted from the firm's 30-staff head office in Hong Kong.
"Good timing is important in this business, perhaps more than any other sector," declares Marszalek. "The products are very simple, but it is the dynamics of this market that make it so interesting. We are very optimistic about the future as new applications for flash memory technology are coming up all of the time."
Starline clearly has its finger on the pulse in the flash memory device sector.
WRITTEN BY TONY HENDERSON
Starline Int'l Group Ltd