▲ CEO Chae Gyu Man has his technology in most banks in Korea and is looking to the Chinese market next. Photo courtesy Vision Telnet
Chae Gyu Man, CEO of the Jeju-based design image agency Vision Telenet, uses the word “vision” scores of times during the interview. He stressed how the wisdom of age and experience results in vision.
“If you dig the same pond for 10 years, then you get the vision of your work,” he told The Weekly from his company’s main office in the Jeju Technopark building in Jeju City. “When I first started the business, everything was uncertain. Now? I’ve got the knack of the business world.”
Vision Telenet is the kind of business that you would never find on occupation lists compiled by the Ministry of Employment and Labor.
“I am the first ... to pioneer this business. When I introduce myself as a ‘design imagist’ everyone asks what that is,” Chae said. “I’m not surprised.”
Vision Telenet developed a system which combines the customer queue/ticketing software for businesses like banks with advertisements, most of which are for local businesses and services. Chae said he got his foot in the door of banks by making them an attractive offer.
“We provide free widescreen LED TVs installed with our state-of-the-art ticketing software. This gives them little reason to reject our offer.”
Asked how he comes up with the initial expenditure to buy expensive televisions and install them with his software system, Chae just simply grinned.
“Advertising is the key to our business model. Local vendors can post their ads at a relatively cheaper price than in [TV, radio,] or newspapers. Lots of local residents line up to advertise their businesses using our system. Revenue far exceeds the cost of a nice television.”
This may sound like a license to print money, but finding this business model was not easy. Chae had a number of jobs prior to founding Vision Telnet. As a student, he majored in Buddhist Art Studies at Donguk University in Seoul. After graduation, he went to Japan to study Dancheong, the traditional multi-colored bricks found on old wooden buildings.
“I loved studying Buddhist art, but most of the work had been done in the mountains and I love city life.”
After two years in Japan he returned to Korea and worked for Kumon, a well-known Japanese home-study material company. After quitting that job, he printed his own mathematics studying materials, but ended up saddled with debt. “Whenever I printed the books, there were numerous typos in the book which cost editing fees,” he sighed.
It was at this point that Chae seriously considered changing vocations. He then remembered that in Japanese banks customers waiting to be served were assigned numbers, which were announced using TVs. He put two and two together, thinking the system could offer up ads to waiting customers.
“There used to be a lot of ticketing software companies in Korea. However, no one had ever thought of applying ads to the ticketing system. I was the one who first brought the two together,” he said, adding he was sure this “win-win” system would be financially successful.
It was a rocky start, requiring a lot of shoe leather and handshakes. He said that over the course of a decade he had visited nearly every bank branch in Korea.
“I cannot count how many times I visited branch managers. I visited all of them and explained the business model. But [early on] no one listened to me.”
Chae explained that eventually his tenacity paid off as one by one the managers began to express interest.
“My first customers were Nonghyup and Kookmin banks, two major banks in Korea,” he said.
Chae recounted another hitch when after some good years in business with these banks, Nonghyup and Kookmin struck out on their own in the mid-2000s with their own ticketing systems. They returned to Vision Telenet, he said, after they found it more expensive to do it themselves.
Chae said, whenever he wanted to give up, his two younger brothers were always there to support him. “Especially during 2004 and 2005, [the situation was] very desperate. I felt there was no future for me. However, my two brothers backed me and I could start up the business again with them.”
Now that Chae’s system is in most Korean banks, he’s looking to the future through technological advances and overseas expansion.
“In a few years, we will not have to dispatch an employee [to upload new ads]. With just a click of a mouse we will be able to send [our ads] to banks all over Korea,” he said.
Chae dreams of a global customer base. Presently he is in touch with the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China. “I want to expand this business model to China. Watching the business grow is a big thrill for me.”
Throughout it all, Chae said he has learned some things that everyone can apply to their lives.
“Time will solve everything. Never be depressed when faced with circumstances you never expected. Just keep going on and on and be persistent with your work that you enjoy. Do not forget that there are people who will be always with you. You can get the vision of your work as the time goes by.”
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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