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(Yonhap Interview) Hancom aims to fight U.S. giant Microsoft: CEO

All News 16:08 July 18, 2016

By Kim Han-joo

SEOUL, July 18 (Yonhap) -- Microsoft Inc. currently leads the global software market, but South Korean software maker Hancom Inc. aims to fight neck-and-neck with the U.S. giant in the near future on the back of strong presence in the local market and its push to diversify its business portfolio, its CEO said Monday.

Hancom, founded in 1990 by industry mogul Lee Chan-jin as a venture company, is well-known among South Koreans with its mainstay word processing computer software created for the Korean language.

The company has stood as a competitive and viable rival here to the U.S. giant Microsoft, which produces the vast majority of operating systems for personal computers, by expanding its business in recent years.

"Microsoft and Hancom are the only players in the industry that produce web offices, mobiles, desktops and cloud," said CEO Lee Won-pil in an interview with Yonhap News Agency. "I believe that Microsoft and Hancom will continue to compete."

Microsoft controls 90.8 percent of the global market in terms of sales, followed by Adobe Systems Inc. with 3.8 percent, Google with 2.6 percent and Hancom with 0.4 percent.

In the South Korean market, the market share of Hancom Office is 30 percent, which Lee says is an "impressive" number as the company provides alternatives to Microsoft Office products.

"There were more than 30 software firms (in 1990), and we are the only one who survived," said the 55-year-old CEO, noting that the company does not see other local small players as much of a "competition" but rather a "symbiosis."

"Hancom has strived to stay competitive in the market mainly dominated by Microsoft," Lee said, noting that the company focuses on the future rather than the past.

Following years of leading the local market, the firm suffered a setback for years starting in the early 2000s due to Microsoft's strong presence and even was close to being delisted.

"Hancom always tries to provide what the clients want instead of just simply providing the products," said Lee, noting that the company always listens to clients' needs.

Hancom said it is making effort to go global by designating five new emerging markets -- Russia, China, India, the Middle East and South America -- as new targets,

"This year, which marks the 25th anniversary, is an important year as the company aims to target annual sales of 100 billion won (US$88.1 million) for the first time," said Lee.

Hancom said it recently purchased a building in India to jack up research and development (R&D) spending, noting that making inroads into the Indian market will make it easier for the company to enter the U.S. and European markets.

"Our other goal is to generate profits worth 15 percent of the total from overseas markets," Lee said.

Lee mentioned that Hancom is pushing for mergers and acquisitions in tough markets, such as purchasing the Belgium-based PDF library company iText to build the joint venture firm ThinkFree.

ThinkFree offers Hancom solutions integrated with iText, a business solution that creates and changes PDF files.

Lee said the company is also diversifying its business to generate profits in the long term, including translation services and smart education.

Hancom Interfree Inc., the company's translation arm, inked a deal to provide its automated translation software to be used at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.

Co-developed with the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, "Genie Talk" translates Korean into English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, French, German, Russian and Arabic.

The firm also formed a joint investment with the leading automated interpretation company, Systran International, to build a multiple language translation system at its office suite, offering 130 different languages.

Hancom's ultimate goal is to become the first South Korean software company to log sales of 1.4 trillion won in the global office market through aggressive M&As, Lee said.


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