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Huawei started in 1987 with a staff of just 12. Today it employs 170,000 people around the globe and is the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world.
March 16, 2017
Telecoms.com periodically invites expert third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. In this piece Sarah-Jayne Gratton reflects on her experiences as a guest of Huawei at Mobile World Congress 2017.
I’d never imagined in my wildest dreams finding a comparison between a global telecoms giant and the natural world but, what would historically be a dichotomy of epitomes has, on this occasion, become a symbiosis of one man’s Confucian values of equality and harmony, coupled with a company-wide employee ‘owned’ passion for perfection in everything created and shared.
Cycles and the Power of the Collective
Like nature itself, it’s all about cycles – from Huawei’s rotating CEO system, in which three deputy chairmen each take turns acting as CEO for six months, to the fact that the company itself is wholly owned by the employees, with the founder, Ren Zhengfei, himself holding less than 1.5% of the total shares. This type of co-operation is a big part of nature, down to the cellular level, say experts. Iain Couzin, a mathematical biologist at the University of Oxford explains that “Co-operation is one of the most important and beneficial behaviours on Earth. We literally would not be here without it.”
A Longer Term Perspective
To support his organic, consumer-centric philosophy coupled with the power of the collective, Zhengfei is steadfast in his belief that dismissing the possibility of an IPO while adhering to the current employee-ownership structure is what allows the company to maintain a collective, customer-focused spirit. The lack of an IPO also enables Huawei to take a longer-term perspective and to think in terms of decades rather than quarters.
As in nature, Zhengfei considers each ‘season’ of the company a period of continued growth, learning and sharing by listening first and foremost to the customer. This, Huawei believe, will enable the evolution of a future where connectivity is possible for all. And it’s this long-term vision that keeps Huawei ahead of the game. It’s not afraid to put its money where its mouth is in terms of research, where it considers knowledge as being the fundamental power in rolling out its future vision.
From Humble Beginnings
Huawei started in 1987 with a staff of just 12. Today it employs 170,000 people around the globe and is the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world. Someone described Huawei last year as being “the best smartphone company you’ve never heard of” but walk the halls of MWC 2017 and their name is quite literally everywhere!
I was fortunate to be invited as a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) at this year’s congress and it was nothing short of astounding to see how far the company has come, especially in their consumer products division, where the recently released P10 and P10 Plus have proved worthy rivals to both Apple and Samsung’s offerings. Huawei’s latest smartphone is far more Apple-esque in appearance than it is Samsung and I don’t think this is an accident. After all, Huawei first and foremost listens to its customers and I believe it has taken the best attributes of the iPhone, coupled with the ‘candy for the masses’ appeal of Android’s new Nougat OS and has fine-tuned them into something that must be making Mr Cook very nervous indeed!
Without going on to review the long list of P10 features in this piece (I’ll leave that for another time) what is apparently clear in everything that Huawei produces is the sheer quality of their products, something echoed through an unspoken, yet almost tangible, mantra of pride resonating throughout the Huawei halls of MWC.
A Very Large Family
It’s a rarity for such a vast organisation to still have a family-like feel to it, yet that’s what it manages to hold on to, despite its continued growth. It may be a family of 170,000 (and growing) making for one hell of a long ending to a Walton’s episode, but that’s what it is; a collective of individuals that together hold onto Zhengfei’s core belief of success through vision, value and sharing. It’s no secret that Huawei actually want their customers to succeed. Something that’s been reflected in their recent election as platinum members of the OpenStack Foundation.
The company’s unique realisation of the power of the collective coupled with a consumer-centric business flow have made Huawei a force to be reckoned with in the telecoms world. Their continued attention to detail in the products they produce and their unwavering commitment to customer satisfaction embodies their ongoing quest for perfection in an imperfect world.
Dr Sarah-Jayne Gratton is a best-selling author and digital media strategist with a career that marries her early days in the theatre with her later work in consumer psychology. She is a popular social media persona as @grattongirl on Twitter, has been listed in the Sunday Times Social List and is one of the “Top Badass Women of Twitter”. You can read more about her work here: sarahgratton.com
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