Starting a business in Korea, as everywhere, is a risky proposition. No matter how common and secure a chosen field may look, one always has to fear competition and unexpected failures. But jumping into an untapped field with no predecessors or success stories has to be several times worse.
It wasn't that Choi Kyung-joo, 41, wasn't aware of this when he decided to enter the practically unknown ``automatic control and monitoring system'' field in 1987 at age 24. ``But that was its biggest attraction. There were no competitors and I knew I would be getting a head start in what was surely going to be a big industry later,'' Choi said.
Sixteen years later, Choi has proven that he was right. His company is currently the leader in the domestic factory automation market and ranks among the top five in the world. Furthermore, the company has been seeing 200-300 percent growth annually since 1993 and expects to pull in 11 billion won this year, up nearly 100 percent from last year's 6.2 billion won.
His success no doubt can be traced to his keen business foresight 16 years ago when he got the idea for his process control and monitoring system (PCMS) from Japanese business magazines. ``But mostly, it's the result of lots of sweat, patience and tolerance for ill fortune,'' Choi said in his office in Sinsa-dong, where he works with his 85-member staff, 25 of of whom are researchers.
As a matter of fact, he's had more than his share of challenges. For example, when he first introduced his PCMS in 1987, no one wanted to buy the product because it was made by a ``small company.'' Leaking office buildings, key researchers leaving the company, the financial crisis last year when the company had no sales during the first six months -- the list goes on.
Looking back, the major turning point for CSC was when it received a Korean New Technology (KT mark) in 1993, Choi said. This approval finally received the trust of consumers and CSC's software and hardware packages have become crucial to industries needing self control/monitoring systems. Since then, things have been better.
Though CSC produces about half a dozen major hardware and software products, the most extensive product is its water supply control system.
``The software keeps track of rainfall and calculates how much a dam can hold before it controls the opening of water outlets. How soon or how late the outlets are open determines whether there's going to be a flood or not,'' Choi explains.
CSC has been operating the flood control system of Korea Water Resources Corp. a state-run water management company, since 1997 and currently supplies the product to 2,000 companies and 3,500 sites in Korea. …