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INSIGHTS with Dario Casari, VP Samsung Electronics Switzerland

Dario Casari is a skilled Sales and Marketing Manager in the field of information technology and consumer electronics. He started with Samsung in 2007, and has managed to work his way to the top. Now, as the Vice President of Samsung Electronics Switzerland, Dario is all about speed and staying on top of innovation in the Swiss market. He believes that to be a good leader is to listen to your staff, and empower people to think for themselves. As Samsung has started a new program about social impact, we at Bluelion and SEIF wanted to interview him about how large companies, and Samsung in particular, empower people to tackle societal challenges.

I see that you believe in the importance of focusing on Swiss markets and having strong local roots, according to a post on Samsung’s website. In what way is Samsung helping to build strong local roots?

Yes, our company has had a presence in Switzerland for many years now, and as a result, we have a clear understanding not only of the needs and changes, but above all of the development and spirit of innovation that exists in Switzerland. Switzerland is one of the most innovative economies in the world for its size. We have a unique vocational training system and excellent universities and colleges. This not only produces excellent ideas and solutions, but also promotes economic power, the future and creates jobs. We are also playing our part in this and support the development and advancement of creative and innovative concepts. Two programs have been developed for this purpose. Solve for Tomorrow – an incubator and ideas competition for addressing current social challenges. And Samsung for Impact, a program that is can be seen as an extension and complement to Solve for Tomorrow. Here, however, we are targeting existing start-ups directly, i.e. fledgling companies that are already active on the market. Like many European countries, Switzerland has an ageing population. And in this respect, we are specifically looking for new approaches and models on the topic of an ageing society. In the best case, these will also help to reduce health care costs. Participating start-ups undergo a six-month process with us and our partners SEIF and BlueLion to hone their business model in on this topic to such an extent that it becomes appealing enough to investors.

To what extent do you believe that large corporations like Samsung have a social responsibility? Social good used to be a responsibility of the government. How do you think private players can add value to the government’s endeavours?

Companies have a social responsibility. Ultimately, they are part of society themselves. We also have our responsibility to our employees, suppliers and customers. It is, therefore, in the vested interests of each and every company to address social issues and problems and become actively involved as part of the solution. Just to ensure their continued existence, which in turn means safeguarding or creating jobs. So, we as a company can help to tackle current problems by seeking to assume social responsibility as a private sector stakeholder – which, incidentally, can also be in collaboration with the state, in the shape of a public-private partnership, for instance.

Over the past 13 years with the company, how have you seen Samsung grow and change over the years?

As hard as it is to imagine from where we are today, but we too were once a start-up ourselves. We weren’t the major global corporation that we are today. We have also grown massively in terms of headcount, the number of products and, of course, in sales – in Switzerland in particular. It all sounds simple now, but behind the scenes there has been a long and intensive learning process. We have also had to learn how to distribute products globally. Whole processes and logistics systems have been developed. Relationships with partners have had to be established and expanded. And market share has also developed accordingly over the years. In the early days, Samsung was mainly synonymous with monitors and televisions, but nowadays the smartphone sector also plays an important role.

What are Samsung’s core values? How does the Samsung for Impact program tie into them?

First of all, thank you for asking this. I think it is very important. In fact, it often receives too little coverage. At Samsung, we see ourselves as relentless and inquisitive pioneers, working to develop creative innovations. Seen in this way, we overcome or break down barriers, and drive progress forward. The five core values at Samsung – People, Excellence, Change, Integrity, Co-Prosperity – are factors in this. We want to be at the cutting edge of technological and social change, even as visionaries with our progressive innovation. Looking ahead and staying optimistic are the foundations for developing excellent products and innovations for our customers. We succeed so well in this because we put people and their needs first. Positive experience is, of course, always paramount. We take integrity and transparency towards all our stakeholders very seriously. Ultimately – to come back to your question and to our commitment – we are constantly endeavouring to identify, advance and develop solutions to facilitate social improvement and prosperity.

Samsung for Impact tackles the issue of the ageing society, as this is a pressing concern in Switzerland. What are your hopes with the program?

In my view, it is not so much a question of hope as the belief that we can and must make a substantial contribution. You see, the problems of a rather ageing society are not an issue that is exclusive to Switzerland. We can also see this to some extent in Asian countries like Korea, as well as in our neighbouring countries. The innovative capacity we are promoting with Samsung for Impact, the start-ups that we support, could become game changers. Not only for Switzerland, but thanks to Swiss innovation. This allows us to make a significant contribution towards this. I am personally very proud of this as an employee of the company.

Samsung is tackling the issues of the ageing society through supporting tech start-ups. How come Samsung decided to take this path?

Of course, we are not the only large company that has established support programs like this. New start-ups are eager to experiment and can drive forward developments with speed and agility. Whereas it used to take a few years to turn an idea into a prototype and launch it on the market, we have now reached a point where we can test the first prototypes within a matter of months and work on a market launch at the same time. Through our Samsung for Impact program, we can contribute to finding lasting and self-sustaining solutions to social challenges.

Where do you see the biggest potential of tech-solutions for the ageing society in the next decade?

This is a very good question, but also a very difficult one, as I am not a futurologist. But we are naturally concerned with trends and developments. Not only on a technological level, but also with regard to societal and social changes. There are two key parameters. Firstly, there is the growth in society and thus also the increase in the number of older people, which we have to take into account. It is a matter of stabilising or even lowering the social and health costs, which will be beneficial to everyone. Secondly, there is technological development and digitization. There are many people who think that, overall, we have come a long way. The fact of the matter is that there is still a lot of potential to be tapped. If we now manage to ensure that this development brings about greater equality, while at the same time generating prosperity and well-being, and lowering social and health costs, this will be a major contribution to the future. I don’t want to suggest specific technological possibilities here. That is why we have Samsung for Impact – a program for exploring this very potential in a forward-looking and meaningful way.

How do you see this program being affected in light of recent events, i.e. the coronavirus lockdown? Do you feel it highlights different issues?

Fortunately, the lockdown has not had any significant impact on the implementation of Samsung for Impact. The programme can go ahead as planned; we just have to maintain a little more distance and focus more on the digital realm. I have no doubt that both the projects submitted and the program content will continue to be of high quality. The issue of the ageing society is an interesting one, though. That had already been identified as an issue early on, but the Corona crisis has now raised completely new considerations and urgency in our project. Firstly, there is the issue of social distancing to older people. This has completely altered the social perception of vulnerability and risk groups. And secondly, there is the issue of general healthcare and associated costs precisely because this age group is so badly affected. The issue has more or less been amplified by the crisis and is now raising new perspectives.

About the Program

In order to foster innovation potential in the ageing society, Samsung, in collaboration with SEIF and Bluelion, has initiated an accelerator program looking for impact-driven startups who are addressing the challenges and opportunities of the ageing society.  

The Samsung For Impact accelerator program is a carefully designed program by SEIF and Bluelion that will support the impact startups to bring their business model to the next level, getting traction & visibility and creating the highest impact possible. 

Over the course of 4 months, mentors from SEIF and Bluelion will accompany the teams through the accelerator process and provide support in questions of orientation, process design, reflection and personal competence development. Through expert coaching for subject-specific competence development, by the end of the program each startup will be ready for a successful pitch to impact investors.