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Singaporean breaks new ground in Samsung

Previously in charge of marketing fast-moving consumer goods such as pet food, skincare products and contact lenses, Mr Lee Jui Siang joined Samsung as he was impressed with how quickly it had grown to become a market leader.
Previously in charge of marketing fast-moving consumer goods such as pet food, skincare products and contact lenses, Mr Lee Jui Siang joined Samsung as he was impressed with how quickly it had grown to become a market leader.ST PHOTO: TREVOR TAN

Marketing veteran seeks to add diversity as the company's first non-Korean country president in Asia

When Singaporean Lee Jui Siang, 45, took over as president of Samsung Electronics Singapore in May, he also gained the distinction of being Samsung's first non-Korean country president in Asia.

What made the achievement special for him was being recognised by a company that has a deep and rich management talent pool.

"They have many bright engineers and students, and there is a very wide pool of qualified candidates in senior management positions. So I feel honoured and very fortunate to be able to take up this role for Samsung," says Mr Lee.

He concedes there is extra pressure on him taking on such an important role in Samsung.

"If I am successful and I can continue to progress in the role of senior management in Samsung, it would be an encouragement to all the foreign talent," he says.

He also realises there are many South Koreans keeping an eye on him as well.

"I am sure they will look at me and ask, 'What is it that Jui Siang can do that I cannot do?'" Mr Lee says.

But he feels that, at the end of the day, he has to deliver the results, add value and bring diversity.

"I think diversity is very important. When you are a global company (like Samsung), you need to cast your net wider to attract global talent, and this is the only way to really make the organisation stronger and better," he says.

A father of two sons and one daughter aged 11 to 16, Mr Lee enjoys cooking for them.

He also tries to spend as much time as he can with his family despite his packed work schedule.

Mr Lee graduated from the National University of Singapore (NUS) with a business administration degree in 1996, and obtained his Master of Business Administration in 2006, also from NUS.

Prior to joining Samsung seven years ago, Mr Lee held several senior marketing and management positions in Johnson & Johnson and Mars, Inc.

He was in charge of marketing fast-moving consumer goods such as pet food, skincare products and contact lenses.

"I moved into tech not because of tech. I moved into tech because I wanted to join Samsung," Mr Lee says.

"The first reason was that I was impressed with how Samsung had progressed," he says.

He saw how Samsung built its TV business, emerging from a nobody to become the market leader in a short span of time.

"They (Samsung) just took over the market leadership with a brilliant product, brilliant marketing and brilliant execution," he says.

The second reason: Samsung is an Asian company. Having worked in American companies, he wanted to try something new.

"Although we say that it is an Asian company, I saw how this company can miraculously fuse both the American culture and Asian culture into one company," he says.

Mr Lee explains that Samsung is very results-driven and willing to try new things, like the Americans.

But it is also very Asian in nature, with deep respect for its employees, and it appreciates staff loyalty.

Also, he feels there was not much difference in terms of his job scope in Samsung, compared with his previous jobs. "Fundamentally, be it skincare products or mobile phones, it is still about selling a product to consumers," he says.

During his tenure here, Mr Lee hopes to achieve three things.

One is to create an environment where his people are willing to take risks, make mistakes and grow together. The second thing is to bring new products and services to the Singapore market, and the third is to help young and budding entrepreneurs in Singapore.

"Working together with institutions here, we can play a small part in encouraging the young generation to be entrepreneurs, to come up with ideas, and maybe even help some of these people make their ideas come true," he says.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 22, 2017, with the headline 'S'porean breaks new ground in Samsung'. Print Edition | Subscribe