SINGAPORE— Samsung Electronics Co. 005930.SE -0.31% is turning to apps and freebies to help it with a looming challenge: maintaining smartphone dominance in Southeast Asia, one of the fastest-growing cellphone regions in the world.
While the South Korean electronics company is still the world's biggest smartphone maker, with 25% of the global market in the second quarter, data from market-research firms show that the company is losing ground in Asian markets such as China, India and Southeast Asia. In a bid to hook young consumers on its devices specifically in Southeast Asia, the South Korean technology company is turning to a veteran U.S. entertainment executive to create localized apps with content and deals tailored to individual countries.
Nicholas Wodtke, who ran Walt Disney Co. DIS -0.33% 's digital-media initiatives in Asia, has assembled a team of about 50 people in Singapore responsible for building apps and securing promotions such as free beverages, discounted hotel rooms and personalized sports news for Samsung customers in countries including Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore.
The 47-year-old Mr. Wodtke said Samsung is focusing on Southeast Asia because the region's consumers are young and more willing to try out new services. About half of Indonesia's 240 million people, for example, are under the age of 30.
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