Light Reading
Colin Giles is using all the experience he gained from his days at Nokia to help sustain Huawei as a top 3 provider in the smartphone market.

Huawei's Handsets Man Has Been Here Before

Robert Clark
News Analysis
Robert Clark
3/21/2014
50%
50%

An unknown handset brand with an unusual name, striking out for the big time -- Colin Giles has been here before.

The Executive Vice President, Marketing, Retail and Open Channel Development at Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. isn't thinking of his current employer, but his old firm, Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK). (See Huawei Snaps Up Ex-Nokia Exec.)

Giles spent most of the past decade running Nokia's northeast Asia and China businesses, becoming possibly the best-known foreign national in the Chinese telecom industry. (See Nokia Streamlines Sales Management.)

Back in 1994, he set up Nokia's first Asia-Pacific regional marketing team in Hong Kong. "In those days, Nokia was not very well-known and there wasn't a great awareness of the company or the brand name -- all the same challenges we [Huawei] face now," Giles says.

"What I have learnt is that if you consistently invest and build great products and bring them to market through all the right channels over time, it's possible to build the brand."

Smart Guy With a Smartphone
Huawei's Colin Giles is bringing all his know-how from his Nokia days to the Chinese vendor's smartphone business. (Picture courtesy of Huawei.)
Huawei's Colin Giles is bringing all his know-how from his Nokia days to the Chinese vendor's smartphone business. (Picture courtesy of Huawei.)

It's not the only thing Giles learnt from Nokia. As EVP for global sales until his departure in 18 months ago, he had a box seat view on the decline and fall of the former titan. (See Nokia: It's Really Happening and Nokia Sells Devices Business to Microsoft .)

Looking back at Nokia's dramatic exit, Giles notes that the handset sector has always been highly competitive, with market leaders turning over every few years.

In his current job, the biggest task is to build the Huawei brand. "What's holding us back is the brand. We need to be able to price our products at premium level," Giles told Light Reading during an interview in Hong Kong. "Because the brand today is not seen to be in that segment of the market -- that makes it very difficult to build in the cost."

He points out that Huawei's western competitors started pricing at the top of the market "and have gone down. We have no choice but to start at the bottom and go up, step-by-step."

Huawei began its push into branded consumer devices just three years ago, after years of supplying white-label products to operators. Giles cites the confidence of the carrier customers as affirmation of quality.

But operators are acutely aware the market is dominated by just two heavyweight brands. "There will be a third and they believe that will be a Chinese vendor," Giles said. "Operators have consistently said to me that they see a China brand is going to be a strong number three. The market will become more and more cost-sensitive, and Chinese companies will be able to have the ability to drive the cost down," Giles said. (See Asia Strengthens Its Grip on Smartphone Market.)

The manufacturing scale of Chinese vendors will allow them to take advantage of emerging markets such as Indonesia, India, Vietnam, and Thailand. Those are strategically important because of their large populations and, with smartphone demand levelling off even in China, they are becoming sources of growth.

But those markets won't be won with low-price, low-functionality handsets. Giles observes that price-sensitive consumers are in fact often more demanding than high-end customers. (See Huawei Unveils 6.1-Inch 4G Smartphone.)

With 50% of device group employees working in R&D, Giles believes Huawei has the technical smarts to make the transition to the mobile phone major league. The company aims to gradually build more innovation into products and move up the price chain.

A big part of the transition is to cultivate a B2C culture inside a B2B company. "We do recognize that we need to be consumer-focused and not just customer-focused. To do good products you must have consumer insight, not just operator [insights]."

For now, Giles says it's significant that Huawei has maintained its place at the number three position in the smartphone market, behind Samsung Corp. and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), in the two most recent quarterly handset sales reports from Strategy Analytics Inc. "That demonstrates stability and consistency," he claims. (See Global Smartphone Shipments Reach a Record 990 Million Units in 2013.)

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

(4)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
SachinEE
50%
50%
SachinEE,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/27/2014 | 6:31:54 AM
Re : Huawei's Handsets Man Has Been Here Before
@ FakeMitchWagner, one would only expect wisdom from such a seasoned and experienced pro. While there is no alternative to keep bringing reasonable products to the market to build trust of the consumers, every brand needs at least ground breaking device to set the brand on top. Samsung's Galaxy smart phones did that for Samsung.
SachinEE
50%
50%
SachinEE,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/25/2014 | 6:52:43 AM
Re : Huawei's Handsets Man Has Been Here Before
I am really surprised by the fact that Huawei stood at number three position in global smart phone sales in 2013. It means they have actually made their place in the smart phones market already to some extent leaving Nokia and LG behind which are much older players than Huawei in smart phones market. This is certainly impressive.
danielcawrey
50%
50%
danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/23/2014 | 4:04:59 PM
Re: Success
I believe it's hard to be passive about Chinese handset makers. Companies like Huawei and Xiaomi have potential. Yes, the products that they sell are not as good as the leading brands.

But I remember when Android handsets first came out they weren't great either. It's not how you start. It's how you finish. 
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/21/2014 | 5:40:48 PM
Success
"What I have learnt is that if you consistently invest and build great products and bring them to market through all the right channels over time, it's possible to build the brand."

Words of a wise man. That's the key to success for any business. 
Flash Poll
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Sales Director of INIT on Plug & Play Switch Devices

9|19|14   |   3:21   |   (0) comments


INIT Italy uses both the Huawei S5700 and S7700 series switches for the campus LAN environment. Sales Director Andrea Curti says their company chose these Huawei devices over others because of their performance, flexible scalability and plug-and-play features.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Saudi Arabia Upgrades Vocational Training System

9|19|14   |   3:31   |   (0) comments


The Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) has 100,000 students, 150 government-owned institutions and oversees 1000 private institutes. The CIO of TVTC explains that Huawei devices have allowed them to manage multiple datacenters using just one software program, scientifically tracking the progress of students and teachers, saving them millions.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Media Solutions Are Here to Stay

9|19|14   |   4:35   |   (0) comments


The current media revolution requires rapid upgrades in technology. New formats (HD, 3D, 4K etc.) and the subsequent explosion of file sizes demand sophisticated network and storage architecture. Social media and the multiple distribution channels require a robust asset management system. Gartner analyst Venecia Liu speaks about the current technological trends in ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Microgenesis on Huawei's Switches

9|19|14   |   3:57   |   (0) comments


Microgenesis is a solutions and system integrator company in the Philippines whose areas of expertise include data centers, networking and security products. In this video, Executive Director Jeffrey Choa talks to us about his customers needs and they benefit from using Huawei switches.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Network Solutions Help the Philippines Jump Ahead

9|17|14   |   2:59   |   (0) comments


In the past, the Philippines has under-invested in technology. Now, the CEO of Softshell talks about how Huawei products help the Philippines jump ahead as the economy improves.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
VCS Observation for Safer Cities in the Netherlands

9|17|14   |   5:20   |   (0) comments


Holland's VCS Observation has been operating for 22 years. Its main goal is to get cities safer. CEO Wim van Deijzen tells us some of the challenges his company faces and how Huawei is helping to overcome these challenges.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
A Conversation With Serbia's Ministry of Interior

9|17|14   |   4:38   |   (0) comments


At HCC 2014, the Assistant Minister of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia talks to us about his projects and corporation with Huawei. Solutions like Safe City and E-Government and services like cloud computing are just some of the areas his department is interested in.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
IHS Analyst Discusses eLTE at CCW 2014

9|10|14   |   7:09   |   (0) comments


Thomas Lynch, associate director of critical communications at IHS Technology, talks about broadband in critical communications.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
TCAA on Huawei eLTE: A Broadband Solution for Mission-Critical Communications

9|10|14   |   2:29   |   (0) comments


At CCW2014 in Singapore, the TCCA's Phil Kidner talks about the importance of broadband data for critical communications.
LRTV Custom TV
Spotlight on Cisco: SDN for Optical Networks

9|8|14   |   9:27   |   (0) comments


Cisco's Greg Nehib talks OpenFlow and more on the 'Software-Defined Networking for Optical Networks' panel at the Big Telecom Event in June 2014.
LRTV Custom TV
Cisco's Evolved Programmable Network (EPN)

9|8|14   |   4:05   |   (0) comments


A look at the various demos Cisco showed at Light Reading's Big Telecom Event highlighting Cisco's EPN innovation and how SDN and NFV technologies are enabling a variety of new services.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Future of Ultra-Broadband, With Kevin Kelly (UBBF2014)

9|5|14   |   1:13   |   (1) comment


If you think the technological changes we've seen up to now are astounding, just wait until you see what the future has in store. Discuss upcoming breakthroughs with Kevin Kelly, Founding Executive Editor of Wired Magazine, at the Huawei Ultra-Broadband Forum on September 24.
Upcoming Live Events!!
September 23, 2014, Denver, CO
October 29, 2014, New York City
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
A survey conducted by Vasona Networks suggests that 72% of mobile users expect good performance all the time, and they'll blame the network operator when it's not up to par.
Today's Cartoon
Vacation Special Caption Competition Click Here
Latest Comment
Hot Topics
AT&T: We'll Bundle Fixed Wireless & DirecTV
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 9/15/2014
New NFV Forum Focused on Interoperability
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 9/16/2014
NFV & The Data Center: Top 10 Takeaways
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 9/18/2014
Connecticut Cities Crowdsource Gigabit Nets
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Utility Communications/IoT, 9/15/2014
Pics: LR's Women in Telecom Breakfast
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 9/16/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed