Huawei upbeat about future prospects in the region
KUWAIT: The GCC is an ideal market for an innovative company like Huawei as consumers in the region are highly receptive to change and open to new products. The consumers are quick to adopt new technologies from smartphones to smartwatches to fitness trackers, said Gene Jiao, President of Huawei Consumer Business Group, Middle East & Africa.
In an exclusive interview, Jiao said, “MENA is still experiencing rapid growth in the sales and penetration levels of smartphones. Huawei is very optimistic about its future prospects in this region,” he said. Excerpts:
Kuwait Times: According to your experience in the telecom sector, can you give us an overview of the telecom and mobile industry in the region, where does Huawei position itself compared to the competition?
JIAO: The telecom and mobile industry in the region is thriving due to recent trends in consumer buying patterns. There has been a widespread shift away from feature phones towards smartphones, resulting in a boom in the market. The UAE in particular is leading this trend in the GCC-there are currently 5.3 million smartphone users in the UAE, more than in any other country in the region. A recent study published by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) found that mobile phones are so widespread in the UAE that there are now 228.3 phones per 100 people. And this trend promises to hold-MENA is still experiencing rapid growth in the sales and penetration levels of smartphones, which are currently the most coveted devices in the 18-34 age group. In addition to this, regional focus on eGovernment, Smart Cities, M2M technologies all point to continued growth in the telecom industry in the future. Huawei is very optimistic about its future prospects in this region.
The Middle East is an ideal market for an innovative company like Huawei: consumers in the region are highly receptive to change and open to new products. Consumers in the GCC are quick to adopt new technologies from smartphones to smartwatches to fitness trackers. We are confident in our ability to distinguish ourselves from the pack through our extensive research and development teams which ensure that Huawei is always ahead of the curve. Our phones are state-of-the-art, and we are always incorporating pioneering technology like our Leica dual lens camera and Kirin 960 chipset, which guarantee that consumers will keep coming back to us for a premium experience.
Moving forward, our goal is to grow Huawei’s expansive retail network, reaching 56,000 retail stores worldwide by the end of 2017 – an increase from 35,000 in May 2016. These stores reflect the high-end, premium image that Huawei has cultivated around the world. This year on year growth was reflected in Huawei’s rise as a globally recognized premium brand. In 2017, Huawei was named number 49 on BrandZ’s Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands, number 88 in Forbes World’s Most Valuable Brands and number 40 on the Brand Finance Global 500 Most Valuable Brands lists. In this year’s Fortune 500 that came out in the evening of July 20th, HUAWEI climbed up the list to the 83rd place from the 129th of last year with a revenue of $78.51 billion, making the top global 100 for the first time.
KT: Technological and digital advancement, how is it reflected on your efforts to innovate, and provide consumer products with ground breaking technologies? And how important is the research and development department?
JIAO: Huawei takes pride in always being a step ahead of the industry. We set the trends that the world follows. Our passion for innovation is demonstrated by our heavy investment in R&D: we spend $11 billion on R&D annually to operate 16 R&D center, 36 joint innovations centers and 45 training centers around the world. This investment has already led to impressive results: Huawei P10 and P10 Plus’s dual lens camera (co-engineered with Leica) has set a new industry standard for smartphone photography. Our latest hero product, Nova 2 Plus, with its 20 MP front camera will boast the highest-definition selfie camera in the region. It also comes equipped with a 12MP and 8MP rear dual camera, as well as a revolutionary LCD flash, ensuring Huawei maintains its edge as a leader in the field of smartphone photography. Not satisfied with providing users with 20MP selfies-superstar camera, Huawei outfitted the phone with the best sound system currently on the market. The phone will also support aptX wireless Bluetooth technology, which has the shortest time lag of all Bluetooth audio coding; a battery that only takes 30 minutes to power up 43 percent. Huawei is a consumer-centric brand. That means we are always anticipating our costumers’ needs and tailoring our products to their desires.
KT: What are consumers in the region looking for in the mobile phone, what are the specifications that mostly interest them?
JIAO: Consumers in the region are not dissimilar to consumers worldwide: they place high importance on premium design, exceptional camera capabilities, high-speed, and powerful, long-lasting battery. Huawei strives to satisfy these needs with our flagship phones. The P10 series was crafted to provide users with an elegant design as well as brilliant photography capabilities thanks to our Leica dual-lens camera. Our Mate series has a powerful Kirin 960 chipset in order to provide consumer with a high performing device with long lasting battery. Consumers today demand an exceptional performance and battery life with quick charging solutions, and Huawei will provide just that with the recent launch of the Nova 2 Plus. The HUAWEI nova 2 Plus’ chic design and trendsetting selfie functionality is backed by the HUAWEI Kirin 659 chipset powerhouse. The combination of the Kirin 659 chipset with EMUI 5.1 and Android 7.0 ensures that the series will not slow down over time, and will continue to produce flawless performance.
In addition to its thin and lightweight design, the HUAWEI nova 2 Plus sets itself apart on account of its exceptional battery life and quick charging solution. It takes the HUAWEI nova 2 Plus just 30 minutes to power-up to 39 percent and 43 percent respectively, a feature that is crucial for busy lifestyles. Long-lasting battery life is further ensured through Huawei’s Smart Power Saving 5.0, which can prolong battery life by up to three hours. The new series is also equipped with features including Eye Comfort 2.0, Phone Clone and Huawei Share, making the user experience more comfortable and efficient.
Yet consumers do not care exclusively about phone specifications-though these are undeniably important, people are also looking for a reliable brand with excellent customer service. Huawei is dedicated to satisfying that need through its many service centers, Live Chat Support, Happiness Meter, and soon, its first experience store in Dubai. We aim to provide consumers in the region not only with a premium phone, but also with a premium customer experience.
KT: How was Huawei’s performance in the Middle East region and what is the importance of the GCC for your business? What is your market share in the region and what are the most important markets for you?
JIAO: Huawei Consumer Business Group recently announced its 2017 first half year financial results: sales revenue for the first six months of 2017 increased by 36.2 percent year-on-year to CNY105.4 billion. Smartphone shipments also rose to 73.01million, a year-on-year increase of 20.6 percent. The Consumer Business Group continued to deliver extraordinary growth, beating the industry average and penetrating high-end markets around the globe. This ongoing growth is testament to the strength of the Huawei brand and the momentum we’ve built through delivering premium, market-redefining devices that resonate with today’s discerning consumers. In Q1 2017, Huawei’s market share rose to 9.8 percent of the global smartphone market, according to industry analysts IDC. This growth was driven by a significant increase in sales of mid-range and high-end smartphones in key geographies.
This year on year growth was reflected in Huawei’s rise as a globally recognized premium brand. In 2017, Huawei was named number 49 on BrandZ’s Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands, number 88 in Forbes World’s Most Valuable Brands and number 40 on the Brand Finance Global 500 Most Valuable Brands lists. In this year’s Fortune 500 that came out in the evening of July 20th, HUAWEI climbed up the list to the 83rd place from the 129th of last year with a revenue of $78.51 billion, making the top global 100 for the first time.
KT: Competition is strong in the region, how can you keep up to it?
JIAO: We are confident of our ability to compete with our competitors due to our innovative, consumer-centric approach to technology. Since we have entered the market in the Middle East, we have seen rapid growth in sales. Though 2016 was a slow year for smartphone manufacturers globally, Huawei bucked the trend and experienced an annual revenue increase of 32 percent, achieving a company record revenue of USD 75.1 billion. We attribute our success in part to our rapid growth in MENA.
We believe Huawei has become one of the leading brands in the market through our technological innovation and consumer-centric approach. Our P10 series was hugely popular due to its pioneering Leica dual lens camera, and we hope to continue to raise the bar in photography with our NOVA 2 Plus . We also have opened more than 33 service centers in the MEA region in order to ensure that customers have access to quality, direct and transparent communication channels with Huawei. We believe that these two pillars are the foundation on which our future brand dominance will be built, and are confident in our ability to distinguish ourselves from our competitors on these bases.
KT: You have a various range of products, which one is the most important? How did smart watches affect the sales of smartphones?
JIAO: Huawei does not pick favorites. We value all of our consumers, which is why we have created different products to satisfy the needs of different demographics. Our two flagship phones are the P10, P10 Plus and the Mate series. The P series is intended for consumers looking for a device with a high-end lifestyle experience. The typical purchaser is highly fashionable and design centric and places importance on their phone’s photography ability. We focused on seamlessly blending style and technology through our lightweight phone and pioneering dual-lens camera. By contrast, the Mate series is more performance focused. We equipped the phone with a powerful Kirin 960 chipset to ensure long-lasting battery and seamless performance. Moreover, our HUAWEI nova 2 Plus is one of the most sought-after products among young consumers as a result of its innovative aesthetics and superior usability. With this device we’ve drawn on our most dynamic users’ style and attitude as inspiration to take the HUAWEI nova 2 to the next level. Featuring breakthroughs in selfie functionality and a distinctive design, these devices celebrate the individuality, energy and optimism of today’s consumers. We want to ensure that all of our customers can find what they seek with Huawei.
We are very excited about the future of our Huawei watches. They are the most recent addition to our collection and though we cannot provide exact figures yet, we are quite optimistic about their performance in the market and we expect the trend to continue alongside rising global demand for smartwatches. The HUAWEI WATCH 2 goes far above and beyond in terms of functionality and design. It is a lighter, more compact design, making it more comfortable and more suited to exercise. The introduction of independent connectivity (4g version) makes the product far more than just a partner for a smart phone; it becomes a flexible way to stay connected without your phone. The new fitness and wellbeing functions are also a vast improvement on the first generation, with smarter analysis and new training programs. Overall, the product is more efficient, more effective, and provides more functions to help enrich a user’s everyday life. We do not expect that smartwatch sales will negatively impact our smartphone sales-the two technologies are not in competition as they are complementary products that satisfy different consumer needs.
KT: Huawei will soon open its store in Dubai Mall, why did you chose this location, what will the store add to your company, what are your expectations for the store performance in the next 3 years?
JIAO: As I have said previously, the UAE is a key area of focus for Huawei. Sales figures have been strong in recent years and we expect the trend to continue. For this reason we wanted to open an experience store in the country, and we needed a location that would be conveniently accessible to as many consumers as possible across in the region. Dubai is by far the most connected city in the UAE, so it was the obvious choice. The Dubai Mall is a popular destination for locals, expats, and tourists alike, and it is located in the most prestigious area of Dubai. Recently billed as the most prestigious square kilometer of real estate in the world; Downtown Dubai is best described as the new heart of the city and ‘The Centre of Now’. At Huawei, we constantly seek to position ourselves in the best locations to provide user with a premium experience. The Dubai Mall represents this for us and this is why we have selected it for our first regional experience store.
Consumers can enjoy an immersive experience to engage with the full range of Huawei’s offerings. We hope the store will fill this gap, and provide loyal customers with a sleek, modern background to experience our premium technology and engage with our brand.