Wed. Jun 19th, 2024

Hancom is a reputation ubiquitous to Koreans as Samsung and LG.

As one among South Korea’s oldest software program corporations, it’s identified for its Hangul phrase processing software, the nation’s reply to Microsoft Phrase. Hangul launched in 1989 and is until immediately the second most used phrase processing software behind the US firm. Hancom actually stands for “Korean and Pc.” As of 2021, Hancom was value round $350 million on the Korean inventory market.

At this time, Hancom CEO Kim Yeonsu, has an bold objective: to make the Hancom title ubiquitous exterior of South Korea as nicely.

“My need is for each respectable software program developer on this planet to know Hancom, even earlier than I meet them face-to-face once I go overseas,” she mentioned, who grew to become CEO of Hancom in August 2021 and is heiress-apparent to the enterprise group. She joined Hancom Group in 2012 and rose by way of the ranks to take up key govt positions, principally accountable for mergers and acquisitions, in addition to administration of subsidiaries, earlier than taking the highest job of the group’s flagship.

In line with Yeonsu, Hancom has began a shift from its earlier installation-based software program enterprise mannequin to a cloud-based, subscription service enterprise mannequin. The corporate is providing its Hancom Workplace in software-as-a-service (SaaS) format, which is getting used an increasing number of by international audiences every day, the CEO mentioned.

The South Korean software program firm has additionally been aggressive in acquisitions to develop globally. Its Singapore-based subsidiary Hancom Alliance will full the acquisition of Taiwanese SaaS agency KDAN Cellular to develop in North America, Europe and Asia. Hancom can be contemplating making a strategic funding in Southeast Asian HR SaaS firm Swingvy. “We plan to rapidly develop within the international cloud market by way of acquisitions of promising SaaS corporations like KDAN.”

“Hancom is at the moment valued at round 400 billion received; my objective is to extend this to 4 trillion received. I’m assured that this may be achieved.” In her first-ever interview, completely with ZDNet, Yeonsu, soft-spoken but agency, was sincere about Hancom’s challenges forward, but in addition bullish when it got here to the way forward for the corporate.


The CEO and her high executives are planning to participate in Cellular World Congress 2023 kicking off later this month. Yeonsu says she might be on the lookout for new enterprise alternatives and partnerships with builders.

And the principle providing might be Hancom’s SDK, or software program improvement equipment, for all of the applied sciences and software program on Hancom Workplace, the corporate’s personal model of workplace suite that features Hangul phrase processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and PDF editor.

“Our technique since final yr might be summed up in a single phrase, development,” the CEO mentioned, “and collaboration with international builders is crucial to that.” To make use of an analogy, Yeonsu mentioned Hancom might be setting a desk full of assorted meals for builders in North America and Europe to decide on every based on their tastes.

“To go international, we realized that we won’t present software program full of numerous capabilities that clients could or could not need. So we’re splitting what we’ve into items of applied sciences in order that the purchasers have the liberty to decide on.”

Final yr, Hancom grew to become a shareholder of Taiwanese software program firm KDAN, which provides options for cellular PDF, e-signature, and animation. The Taiwanese agency additionally has its personal AI doc administration service that competes with Adobe Artistic Cloud. “We have now power as an editor, however the completely different codecs we’re modifying, from phrase to PDF, current completely different eventualities. Our experience within the PDF format was comparatively weaker. KDAN had that experience in PDF.”

Roughly 80% of KDAN’s income and clients are from North America and Europe, Yeonsu mentioned, offering Hancom with an entry level for these markets as a part of its international growth plan. KDAN, based in 2009, additionally has recorded over 100 million downloads for its app in Taiwan and is a well-established model there, she added, permitting Hancom to develop there as nicely.

Hancom’s international growth will deal with North America and Europe as markets there usually have excessive spending in software program, the CEO mentioned. Then again, conventionally, Asian markets require a whole lot of customization from the software program supplier to suit the native market, Yeonsu mentioned, which requires a comparatively giant native staff for system integration. “So we need to present the applied sciences we’ve first, then discover out what our clients’ wants are. That approach, we will choose the applied sciences which can be appropriate for additional improvement which we will really feel assured about.”

This blueprint for international growth largely stems from Yeonsu’s expertise from Hancom’s acquisition of Belgium-based PDF resolution agency iText in 2015 and later promoting the corporate in 2018 to personal fairness Crescendo Fairness Companions. After the sale, Yeonsu continued to handle iText as CEO and chair of the board for 3 years.

“Throughout my tenure at iText, we tried to discover a function within the Asian market as nicely. What we realized was that we could not simply promote the companies of iText to those markets however wanted to supply consulting companies as nicely. So this expertise formed how I feel a Korean software program firm ought to method increasing globally. ‘We have now these numerous applied sciences; that is our licensing coverage,’ and assist clients discover what they want.”

Apart from increasing overseas, by way of the South Korean market, Yeonsu mentioned that the corporate was on the lookout for new enterprise alternatives by using the gathered information from offering the Korean language phrase processor software Hangul for 32 years. “For us this gathered doc, or information, is an asset. We’re considering of assorted eventualities, akin to a comparability of how the Korean language was utilized in an older doc to a newer one. We additionally need to enhance the Hangul format itself.”

This utilization of knowledge, which AI can help in, may be very a lot an ongoing homework for the CEO.”We offer an editor: a software to doc info in numerous codecs, from phrase to PDF. Now greater than ever, we’re taking a look at our editor as a container of knowledge.

“So one of many issues we take into consideration is the best way to extract what info and the best way to apply it in order that we will clear up clients’ issues. AI is likely one of the instruments we use for this, however AI or not, we expect extra by way of what worth the applying of a selected know-how can present for the purchasers.” Yeonsu pressured that forming SDK collaboration with builders may even give Hancom entry to extra information.


Yeonsu’s expertise overseas and managing overseas corporations has additionally formed her administration model. She sums up her personal model as pragmatic and to the purpose. Her executives that I talked to described her as an entrepreneur who stresses the significance of overcoming challenges, freedom, fast decision-making, and private duty. Communication appears to be one among Yeonsu’s high agendas: quickly after she was nominated as CEO, in November 2021 Hancom despatched its first shareholder letter.

Most Korean corporations nonetheless are very hierarchical. Most staff name one another by their final names mixed with their positions, that are often given primarily based on seniority and age. The Korean language additionally has honorifics, the place somebody speaking to a different that’s older or of upper standing makes use of particular nouns and verb endings.

Hancom beneath Yeonsu has accomplished away with a lot of this and staff name one another by their full names with out their positions. Yeonsu herself is named Yeonsu by her subordinates. Workers use honorifics between one another no matter place, which is taken into account extra well mannered than not utilizing any honorifics. This units an environment of respect for people however with boundaries.

“My experiences in North America and Europe have modified how I method convincing and turning into pleasant with folks,” the CEO mentioned. “That is additionally the identical for my staff. After I negotiate with them, once I persuade staff to work with me, it’s actually about discovering widespread floor.”

As an alternative of a top-down construction, Yeonsu strongly prefers forming a consensus. “I feel how a lot consensus a objective has inside the firm correlates to how efficiently the objective was achieved.”

Conventional Korean corporations, much like their counterparts in Japan and China, have additionally up to now demanded staff to place the great of the corporate earlier than themselves, however this work tradition has shifted tremendously across the previous 5 years by the worldwide debate over work in addition to the pandemic, and Hancom has additionally been impacted by these societal tendencies.

“Since I began my profession in Korean corporations, I’ve additionally had the mentally of ‘the whole lot for the job’ and anticipated the identical from colleagues up to now. I now not method administration this fashion.”

“Even earlier than I grew to become the CEO, there was a rift between the older technology and the youthful technology, culturally talking, and there have been efforts to bridge this hole by the corporate even earlier than I took the helm. So I might say the Hancom tradition immediately was fashioned partly from my course and the pure evolution of notion about work in South Korea.”

However Yeonsu additionally stresses the significance of private duty that every worker should have, if they need the so-called work and life steadiness. “The corporate’s function is to set a transparent normal of method to the worker and between staff. Additionally, an organization should give clear roles and tasks to the person. However after that, it’s as much as the person.”

“We have now to consider the top objective. The tip objective of setting a piece tradition is to speak and work higher collectively.”

Beginning this yr, Hancom can be planning to implement a brand new course of the place the corporate and staff on a mutually accepted objective that might be evaluated at yr’s finish. This course of was examined in small items final yr however will now be carried out in Hancom headquarters in South Korea.

In relation to tradition and HR, nonetheless, the CEO mentioned this additionally must be primarily based on the place a sure operation is predicated. For instance, Taiwan can have its personal HR; South Korea its personal as nicely; there may even should be a World HR, Yeonsu mentioned.

One other change the CEO made was what Hancom’s personal builders deal with and the way they method work. “Prior to now, our personal builders principally targeted on applied sciences associated to Hangul. However to coincide with our growth, I’ve given them extra freedom to decide on and develop the applied sciences they need that finally match our finish objective of offering worth to clients. Failure is OK, so long as there’s something we will study from it.”

“We have now software program builders with a long time of expertise. We have now legacy belongings as a software program service supplier that operated for many years. I might say we’re but to totally make the most of these to their full potential and we’re all the time considering of the way to take action.”

Hancom CEO Kim Yeonsu Picture: Hancom


Yeonsu mentioned that Hancom is getting ready for extra acquisitions of corporations that match into the corporate’s general technique. “It’s important to take a look at what you have got as an organization earlier than you consider acquisitions. What we’re good at and the place that may take us.”

The CEO additionally shared her ideas on how she chooses candidates: “Most necessary is the folks. Who I work with. I additionally keep away from corporations which can be on the lookout for a public sale.

“In relation to acquisitions up to now, most of it got here organically by our executives working nicely with their executives.”

Yeonsu mentioned after an acquisition, she provides clearly outlined roles between Hancom and the newly acquired firm. “Generally Hancom will have the ability to purchase a brand new area from the acquired firm. Generally Hancom will work with the acquired firm to safe new arenas.”

“For instance, KDAN might be utilizing our Workplace SDK to launch a KDAN Workplace in Taiwan. We wrapped our workplace engine and gave it to KDAN, which added UI and UX that match higher with the native market.

Hancom arrange a subsidiary known as Hancom Alliance in Singapore final yr in September, an organization that might be on the lookout for strategic investments and partnerships with corporations like KDAN.

The Hancom Alliance model might be subservient to the model of acquired or partnered corporations which can be nicely established of their respective sectors, Yeonsu mentioned. “I feel extra model worth is created from having a number of manufacturers, as a substitute of getting completely different manufacturers observe one model,” CEO mentioned, which is markedly completely different from most South Korean conglomerates that prefer to unify completely different corporations beneath one model, akin to Hyundai or SK.

She additionally makes it clear that the profitability of an organization is essential. “The software program sector on the whole will get a whole lot of enterprise capital funding. However to me, how enterprise capitals can put money into corporations with vast losses is kind of frankly a thriller. I feel it comes from [them] all the time on the lookout for the outlier of their perspective. In that sense, I assume the margin price I would like from Hancom and the businesses it really works with might be perceived as above the market common.”

On the identical time, Yeonsu says how she seems at profitability, income, and valuation general is nuanced. “Income could also be excessive proper now for an organization. However I feel we’ve to take a look at future profitability and development. An organization with a superb resume is not all the time worthwhile. Regardless of the scenario is, an organization’s worth is decided I feel by the way it convinces its inner workers and exterior stakeholders of its visions and objectives.”

The discharge of SDKs, the cultural shift, and acquisitions all have the top objective of propelling Hancom’s development. “We’re identified for the Hangul Workplace in South Korea. I feel there have been many doubts about whether or not Hancom had room for development.

“So what we’re altering is promoting our Workplace applied sciences, discovering completely different values from the doc resolution we already posseses, and my job is to persuade the interior workers that we will develop.

“Prior to now, since most of our clients got here from the general public sector, we had little incentive to seek out out the wants of consumers. However now our precedence is to seek out out deeply and precisely the wants of our clients. This may assist us construct a wholesome ecosystem round our SDK.”

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