SHENZHEN – The ascent of Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. -- from a reseller of commodity PBX equipment in rural China when founded in 1987 to a global telecom equipment behemoth with $34 billion revenue today -- is a story told and retold by both the patriotic and the envious in the Chinese business world.
Within Huawei, its “against-all-odds” heritage fuels employees with an “underdog” mentality, driving them to work even harder. Huawei engineers, often described by rivals as “a pack of wolves,” are perpetually determined to prove the world wrong about them (even when the world says they’re right).
Its workers tend to believe that Huawei is a great company underestimated by the West, and worse, misunderstood by those whose worldview is prejudiced against China. And Huawei thrives on this perceived adversity.
Now that the telecom equipment giant is entering new markets such has its own “branded mobile devices” (smartphones and tablets) à la Samsung and Apple, and “enterprise business” (storage, servers, VPN, networking, transactions, etc.) à la Cisco, Juniper, IBM and Oracle, Huawei’s “dream the impossible dream” cliché becomes even more essential.
Shao Yang, chief marketing officer of Huawei Device, cut his teeth in the cellular baseband equipment business from the late 1990s to the early 2000s. He explains that helping Huawei Device achieve its eventual success will emerge from employees’ collective memory -- including his own -- of how Huawei reached the heights it occupies today.
Shao Yang, CMO at Huawei Device
However, Yang’s mission -- to dominate the global market with Huawei branded smartphones -- is still a work in progress.
According to IHS iSuppli, Huawei closed out 2012 in 6th place among smartphone manufacturers, just behind Blackberry, Nokia and ZTE. The others way ahead of Huawei are obviously Samsung and Apple. IHS believes that overall Huawei commanded a little over 4% of the market in 2012.
Meanwhile, the market research firm IDC’s recent data shows that in the fourth quarter of 2012, Huawei, which shipped 10.8 million handsets worldwide, came in the third among smartphone vendors. The fourth quarter of 2012 marked the first time Huawei has ever cracked the top five in global rankings, displacing both LG and HTC, according to IDC.
Remaining humble, Yang pointed out, “There’s still a big gap between us and Samsung/Apple, and that was only one fourth quarter in 2012.”
Of course, having the will to win the market is one thing. Harder is to actually achieve the goal, acknowledged Yang, “because the competition is already there.”
So what’s Huawei’s game plan?