October 6, 2008

Fifth Media Banks on Niche Strategy

By Rozana Sani

FIFTH Media Sdn Bhd's business strategy is to manufacture and distribute wireless computing devices for business applications that are outside the radar of big players.

The company, which is the global marketing arm of MSC-status ENT Quest Sdn Bhd, targets niche markets by providing customisable solutions.

Chief executive Phua Kia Lee says the company is now preparing to launch the AXIA SOHO, a High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) communications server that is packaged as a powerful small box for communications and wireless networking in a small office or home.

"This is a Malaysian-made product. The AXIA SOHO is an all-in- one wireless communications server that offers an instant unifying network solution. It replaces all the network devices with one easy- to-set-up and easy-to-use server that functions as an HSDPA broadband, IP-PBX (Internet protocol-private branch exchange) system, Wi-Fi access point for LAN (local area network), and GSM (global system for mobile communications) office phone complete with VoIP (voice over Internet protocol), SMS, application, file and print server features," he says, emphasising that the AXIA SOHO is an instant wireless office that maximises business communications, operations and cost efficiency.

For the AXIA SOHO, Fifth Media is aiming to go beyond local shores. The initial markets for the product are Asean, Indian subcontinent and the Middle East, followed by the African continent and selected European markets.

"We have initiated contact with potential customers in the region to promote the AXIA SOHO. We do not encounter the perception issue on Malaysian-made products with them. The real problem is, in Malaysia, Malaysians have a perception issue on locally-made technology products," Phua says.

Fifth Media's main challenges are cost and turnaround speed.

"Our development cost is higher as the local support services are limited, expensive and slow. The development cycle is much longer and so it inflates the cost. And we do not have a big domestic market to leverage on to go international," Phua elaborates.

"It is difficult to compete against established international brands. Therefore, we have to look for a niche market that is outside the radar of the big players. Innovation is the way to go. We have to try harder and be creative to give users a new experience and convenience."

And that is why Fifth Media has chosen to focus on regional markets and co-exist with international brands as a niche player.

"As a business operation, we follow the New Economy business model to focus on R&D (research and development) and marketing aspects, build intellectual property assets, and develop a global distribution network. We will stay focused on wireless computing devices. The AXIA SOHO will be evolved with alternative wireless connectivity such as WiMax, 5.8- gigahertz Wi-Fi, and CDMA (code division multiple access) and EV-DO (evolution-data only) to produce more variants for specific functions and applications," Phua shares.

"We are also developing a successor to the AXIA A108, a PDA (personal digital assistant) contact and contactless card reader. The AXIA A108 is a Malaysian-made product. It combines PDA phone with contact and contactless card reader technology. It is also the first NFCenabled PDA phone with read and write capability. The successor to the A108 will be running Windows Mobile 6 and feature a Qwerty keyboard."

In the next three years, Fifth Media intends to expand its product portfolio and improve its global distribution network to achieve product presence in the region (Asean, Indian sub- continent, the Middle East and Africa) and high purchasing markets in Europe and North America.

"We aim to grow our export revenue and target to achieve more than 90 per cent export revenue in the third year," Phua points out.

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