Taking dad’s cue, Ben Yeung fine-tunes local audio firm Fujikon Industrial Holdings, where he is currently the chief strategy officer
Ben Yeung, chief strategy officer of Fujikon Industrial Holdings, is passionate about technology. His eyes glow and he grins as he describes the company’s latest, ultra hi-tech headphones.
“These are probably the most advanced headphones we’ve built,” he says. “There is built-in NFC, so it pairs up with Android phones right away. Then you’ll notice there are no buttons, because it is all done with touch controls. And this is a proximity sensor, so they will start playing music when you put them on and stop when you take them off. They’re very cool.”
This enthusiasm for technology has helped Yeung bring about a shift in the strategy and fortunes of Fujikon, the audio products manufacturer founded by his father, Johnny Yeung, and two others back in 1982. He has transformed the company from one producing lower-priced headphones and audio products and competing on cost, to one making more expensive products which stand out because of their innovative technology and stylish designs.
Yeung has been interested in technology since he was a child. “I was given a PC early on by my father, and that sort of sparked my interest in computing,” he says. “You could call me a nerd. I spent a lot of time finding out how to exploit the potential of various technologies. That has always been part of me.”
This interest led him to take roles as an engineer with several different software and internet companies in the US after graduating. Then, when the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, he saw more opportunities in Asia and moved back to work for a company making home automation products.
“A lot of my creativity started then,” he says. “When I joined the company, I realised the products could be evolved into an architecture that, via the internet, was more connected. So the first thing I did was build a demo room where we could hook up all these different things and then control them from a web browser.”
Following this, Yeung worked briefly as a sales executive and project manager for Fujikon, but he realised he needed additional skills to contribute to the company in the ways he wanted. In 2005, Yeung went to Yale to do an MBA, to equip himself with the skills to run Fujikon. He rejoined as an executive director in 2007. The company was facing difficulties. Its business focused mainly on lower-cost mobile headsets that came with mobile phones. These required little engineering know-how, meaning Fujikon had lots of competitors.
“In 2008, our revenues peaked,” Yeung says. “Things were not looking good because there was competition from all over the place. It was cost-driven and very low-tech. The margins were very low and some of the products were barely breaking even. Faced with that, as well as the unfavourable conditions created by Chinese policies, I realised we could no longer compete in these products,” he says.
Yeung decided that the company should switch from making low-cost headsets to products that could be sold at a higher price because they offered innovative technology or fashionable designs. He noted a growing trend of people buying higher-priced headphones with technology or fashion elements.
Yeung made extensive changes to the company’s operations and workforce to pursue this new direction. “Going from low-tech to hi-tech is like day and night,” he says. “So we had to really upgrade our entire staff, from our electronics engineers to our production engineers. Everyone had to elevate their skill sets.”
The company began placing more emphasis on researching new technology that might be used in headphones.
The shift in strategy has brought Fujikon considerable success, boosting its business making headphones for numerous high-street names. “Back when I returned to the company, we had maybe five significant players as our customers,” Yeung says. “Through the upgrade of our skill set, through changing our product focus and changing our technology focus, we have attracted practically all of the top brands within audio now.”
Several of the high-tech headphones Fujikon has developed since the shift have also gained recognition through industry awards. Yeung is proud that a pair of Fujikon headphones with an in-ear heart rate monitor recently won the Grand Award and Gold Award for the Portable Electronics Category in the annual HKEIA Award for Outstanding Innovation and Technology Products.
“Headphones are cramming in more and more technology as we speak,” he says. “I’m hoping that the more new applications we can think of and the more electronics we can put in, the more functionality we can provide to the user.”