Lesson from China for drones“Let me introduce the manager.” The PR director passed over the microphone to a man in t-shirt, who almost looked like an event staff. He had curled hair, a stylish mustache and wore jeans and sneakers. 32-year-old Moon Tae-hyun is the Korea Country Manager of DJI, the Chinese drone company with 70 percent of the global market share. A pilot, whose hair is dyed blond, is barely over 20. He is currently on a leave from college. “I love remote controlled helicopters, so I went to study in China. I got into drones and joined DJI.” When I visited the DJI indoor arena in Yongin, Gyeonggi on Aug. 16, I wondered why no Korean company is in this business, when the leisure drone market has grown to over 2 trillion won ($1.8 billion) in size.
When I met the employees of DJI Korea, I could guess why. And my guess was assured when I spoke with a few Korean drone makers.
The CEO of a company that has been manufacturing drones for military purposes for over 20 years said, “I never imagined people would spend millions of won to fly drones for fun.”
The young employees who love drones could see the market that others can’t find. 36-year-old Frank Wang, who founded DJI in 2006, was also a fan of model airplanes from childhood. He instinctively knew that there was a market for model airplanes if they can be controlled easily. To meet the consumers’ expectations, he introduced Phantom 1, a stable drone resembling a starfish. It was evolved into Phantom 2, which is equipped with a camera to allow a second-hand flying experience. DJI is an unlisted company and does not make exact sales statistics public. But it is estimated to have grown over 1,000 percent last year alone.
The fourth industrial revolution is rapidly destroying existing industries. In conventional Korean corporate culture, where middle-aged executives give orders and young workers follow in perfect order, there is no room for detecting a new market. When the market demand is limited by outdated imagination, they cannot keep up with young and new companies. This is the lesson of DJI to Korean companies.