Acer Founder Says Taiwan Has Lost Competitiveness

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Photo by Michael Walsh via Creative Commons (https://www.flickr.com/photos/lingolook/)
Stan Shih
Photo by Rico Shen via Wikimedia Commons

Stan Shih (施振榮), founder, president, and chairman of Acer Inc., told 澎湃新聞 (The Paper) in an interview that Taiwan has lost competitiveness over the last ten years. He said that the main reason was that the authorities did not provide a long-term policy environment to support high value-added industrial upgrades of Taiwanese businesses.

Shih added, however, that Taiwan does not lack talent but it lacks an environment in which to thrive. He sees the problem as rooted in corporate culture that follows the pattern of others rather than innovating. He has set up a foundation to cultivate talent and promote brands in Taiwan.

He believes it is only natural for mainland Chinese manufacturers to replace Taiwan. And that Taiwan has to create its own unique value, as in the past, when it replaced Japan in manufacturing industries such as semiconductors and panels. He pointed out that Taiwan businessmen used to reduce costs and expand the scale of production, but the Taiwan authorities did not provide a long-term policy environment to help upgrade high value-added industries. He noted that this dilemma stemming from the lack of government support goes back ten years.

Shih hopes that the current administration helps cultivate innovation to turn Taiwan into a “Silicon Island.” He believes Taiwan should continue to research and develop new service models centered on users and cooperate with other parts of the world to create internationalized service brands.

Shih added  that “Taiwan and mainland enterprises should create value and have mutually beneficial cooperation opportunities to contribute to the world.”

In the interview Shih also noted that over time Acer had to open branches abroad and transferred important decision-making to Europe, which has led to the company losing its Taiwanese identity. While it has benefited the company and shareholders, he laments the loss of the connection to Taiwan.

After his return to Acer’s board of directors, the company saw a turnaround in the second quarter of this year. Rather than focus on the continuation of the personal computer business, Acer developed it’s Build Your Own Cloud ecosystem, which is supposed to ensure the privacy and security of information. Shih believes that platforms such as BYOC are the best way for Acer and other to regain a competitive edge.

Shih said that he had the prototype for cloud computing back in 2000, but that it couldn’t be marketed at the time. He added that it didn’t matter that the idea came to early because “you have to slowly sharpen the ability to wait for the opportunity to come.”

Despite Shih’s criticism, Acer is among the 20 most valuable brands in Taiwan, according to a Ministry of Economic Affairs survey. ASUS topped the list for the fourth consecutive year; however, it’s value of US$1.75 billion declined 2% from 2015.

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