Mon, Aug 20, 2007 - Page 12 News List

NEWSMAKER: Stan Shih ready to represent Taiwan at APEC

MAN OF THE MOMENT Recognized worldwide for his achievements in the high-tech industry, the Acer founder has all the credentials to represent Chen at the APEC forum

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

Stan Shih (施振榮), creator of the country's leading brand, Acer, hopes to create a similar level of awareness for Taiwan at the APEC summit in Sydney, Australia, next month.

Shih is the second business tycoon to be appointed as President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) special envoy at an APEC summit.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manu-facturing Co (台積電) chairman Morris Chang (張忠謀), the founder of the world's largest contract chipmaker, successfully represented the nation at last year's APEC summit in Hanoi, Vietnam. But analysts are hopeful that Shih can do an even better job.

"Without a doubt, Shih is a great candidate for the APEC mission," said Wu Fu-cheng (吳福成), deputy director of the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research's (台經院) Division of International Affairs. "Shih is an even stronger representative of Taiwan's image than Chang."

Shih's status as a Taiwanese -- he was born in Lukang Township (鹿港), Changhua County -- makes him even more attractive to the Democratic Progressive Party than Mainlander Chang -- who was born in China's Zhejiang Province.

Raised by his single mother, Shih obtained a master's degree in electronics engineering at National Chiao Tung University in 1971. After graduating, Shih began his career at Unitron Industrial Corp (環宇電子), where he designed, developed and commercialized Taiwan's first desktop calculator.

Five years later, Shih and four partners founded Acer Group (originally known as Multitech) with NT$1 million of capital.

Although most Taiwanese high-tech companies focused on original equipment manufacturing for overseas brand name companies during the 1970s and 1980s, Shih realized the importance of a brand name and the value it could add to his company and products.

In 1992, Shih unveiled the "Smiling Curve" theory in which he expounded on how to add value in the IT-manufacturing industry. This came to be regarded as a blueprint for economic development and inspired the management of many companies.

According to Shih, one end of the PC industry value chain represents technology and patents while the other is brands and service. The middle part is assembly and manufacturing.

As both ends of the value chain command higher values than the middle section, companies should focus on "pulling" these ends upwards to increase profits, with the result that a graph of the chain curves like a smile.

Thanks to the successful realization of the "Smiling Curve" theory and decades of brand building and marketing, Acer Inc is the world's fourth largest PC vendor -- behind Hewlett-Packard Co, Dell Inc and Lenovo Group Ltd (聯想) -- and posted NT$10.22 billion in earnings last year.

Global acceptance of the Acer brand has not only boosted the company's sales, but also helped to associate made-in-Taiwan products with high levels of quality.

Shih's achievements in the IT industry make him a perfect spokesman for the APEC Digital Opportunity Center (ADOC) project -- an initiative proposed by Taiwan in 2003 to help narrow the digital divide between member economies.

"I will ask US President George W. Bush to support the project, given the abundant resources and talent in the US IT industry," Shih told reporters last Thursday.

Shih's achievements have also won him numerous tributes at home and abroad. He was selected as one of the "25 People You Ought to Know for Doing Business in Asia" by Fortune magazine in 1989, one of Asia's "Top 25 Digital Elite" by Asia Week in 2000 and one of the "25 Stars of Asia" by Business Week in 2004.

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