With the domestic computer market growing by leaps and bounds, Hewlett-Packard (HP), the American personal computer and printer company, is stepping up its marketing activities in Slovakia by setting up a direct branch office to meet this demand. At stake are the huge contracts from heavy industrial companies, banks and government ministries. The numbers tell the tale. Compared to 1994 when only 1,560 computers and peripherals were shipped to Slovakia, 1996 saw 6,960 computers sent to Slovakia according to a survey by the International Data Center in Prague.
With the office start-up, HP is directly applying its world-wide strategy for marketing personal computers (PC's) and peripheral equipment to Slovakia. This strategy of utilizing authorized channel partners, such as distributors, dealers and realtors and staying away from direct sales has paid off. In 1996 HP grabbed a 10.5 percent market share, bringing $32 million in revenue in just the PC and peripheral division, according to Viera Zemanovičová, HP's new marketing manager.
Such rapid growth in business made it clear to Hewlett-Packard that Slovakia was a market they needed to pay attention to and support. "Otherwise customers would say Hewlett-Packard has no interest in Slovakia, and that's not true," said Peter Gschwendt, HP's sales manager and branch office manager in Slovakia.
So as of May 1, Hewlett-Packard Trading s.r.o., a branch office of HP's headquarters in Geneva, began operations in the Petržalka high-rise of Technopol, where it will be located until another facility can be found. According to Gschwendt, this is the company's first step to substantially increase its business in Slovakia and reach its target of a 15 percent market share. "The Slovak market has a hunger for computers," Gschwendt said.
The strategy to continue to grow by servicing customers made it absolutely essential for HP to set up an office. "Our strategy is to support our partners more," said Gschwendt. "Customers in Slovakia must feel that HP is really interested in them."
Gschwendt stressed that HP's recent results in Slovakia is the main reason the firm decided to increase its presence. In 1995 HP had an approximately four percent share of the PC market in Slovakia. In 1996 it was 13 percent, an over 300 percent increase, ranking them only behind IBM. In laser-jet and ink-jet printers, HP has a phenomenal 80 to 90 percent market share in Slovakia.
Zemanovičová said the reasons for HP's success have been the firm's relationship with their customers, noting Slovnaft as one of HP's "partners," its competitive pricing, and its high quality products which she said speak for themselves.
The new direct branch office will not sell products directly, but will actually be a representative marketing office which will provide the latest technical and marketing information for HP's customers. The office will enable HP's customers to contact a HP representative directly; previously customers dealt only with authorized partners who had no immediately visible connection to HP.
In this respect, HP clearly lagged behind some of their more visible competitors like IBM and Digital. "We could say that if it had been sooner it could have been better," Gschwendt said. "But of course since 1993 it was evident that improvements and contributions to the market could be made."
22. May 1997 at 0:00 | Jake Slegers