& cplSiteName &

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.)

ó Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

(4)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
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. 
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Interviews
ETSI's CTO Talks NFV, 5G & NGP

12|5|16   |   09:45   |   (0) comments


Adrian Scrase, CTO at standards body ETSI, talks about the various initiatives and specifications developments related to NFV, 5G and NGP (next-generation protocols) that will underpin next-gen networks.
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Korn Ferry Consultant: How to Find, Cultivate & Be the Best Talent

11|30|16   |   4:10   |   (1) comment


Erin Callaghan, a managing consultant for Korn Ferry Futurestep, shares strategies for companies to improve how they recruit and for women to ensure they don't get lost in the pipeline.
LRTV Custom TV
We Can Make the World More Sustainable

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


GeSI is a global e-Sustainability Initiative organization bringing together 40 big multinational companies around the world. According to GeSI's report, information and communication technology can make the world more sustainable. Luis Neves, chairman of GeSI, shared with us his opinion at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
Finding a New Way to Engage Customers & Drive Revenue

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


Mobile revenues are declining. Digicel, a player in the Caribbean telecommunications/entertainment space, has found a new way to engage customers and drive revenue. John Quinn, CTO of Digicel, shared with us its story at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016)
LRTV Custom TV
Do You Really Need Gigabit Infrastructure?

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


Altibox is the biggest fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) player and the largest provider of video and TV in Norway. They started out with zero customers in 2002. Now they have close to half a million households and companies attached to their FTTH business. Nils Arne, CEO of Altibox shared with us their story and insight on 5G at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
BTís Openreach Strategy & Its Updates in 2016

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


A lot of developments at Openreach this year in terms of strategy and planned investments. Peter Bell, CIO of Openreach BT, shared with us the updates of Openreach at Ultra-broadband Forum (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
ITU: The Broadband Is Our Future

11|29|16   |     |   (0) comments


At Ultra-broadband Forum, Houlin Zhao, Secretary General of ITU, discussed how important it is for countries, companies and everybody to be working together to help to build the broadband and digital economies (UBBF2016).
LRTV Custom TV
Tackling 5G in Dallas

11|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


Here are our highlights of the 5G North America show in Dallas, Texas with Light Reading's Dan Jones.
LRTV Interviews
Cox Prepping for Virtualization Trials

11|14|16   |     |   (0) comments


In this video interview, Cox's Jeff Finkelstein discusses MSO's plans to test managed business services in early 2017 and tackle Distributed Access Architectures.
LRTV Custom TV
Drivers & Potential of NGP

11|11|16   |     |   (0) comments


ETSI has created an Industry Specification Group to work on Next Generation Protocols (NGP ISG), looking at evolving communications and networking protocols to provide the scale, security, mobility and ease of deployment required for the connected society of the 21st century. The NGP ISG will identify the requirements for next generation protocols and network ...
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei IP 2020 for Future Networks

11|11|16   |     |   (0) comments


Future Networks should satisfy many requirements such as high throughput, extremely low latency, flexible mobility, intrinsic security, networking automation, and so forth. The Chief Architect of Huawei Future Networks addresses a holistic solution, i.e., IP 2020, to achieve these requirements for various future life scenarios (e.g., autonomous driving, tactile ...
LRTV Custom TV
Digital Object Architecture

11|11|16   |     |   (0) comments


Digital Object Architecture provides a basic information infrastructure that can facilitate interoperability between or among different systems, processes, and other information resources, including different identity management systems. Digital objects are networked objects that are named by digital object identifiers and instantiated by an infrastructure service ...
Upcoming Live Events
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Cable Nodes Becoming a Choke Point
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 12/5/2016
Apple Seeds 5G? Seeks 'Multi-Gigabit' Chip Designer
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/30/2016
Altice Plans FTTH for Entire US Footprint
Iain Morris, News Editor, 11/30/2016
Altice FTTH Bill Could Hit Almost $9.6B in US
Iain Morris, News Editor, 12/1/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Eyal Waldman, CEO of Mellanox Technologies, speaks to Steve Saunders, CEO of Light Reading, for an exclusive interview about the 100 GB cable challenge, cybersecurity and much more.
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Even when there's a strong pipeline of female talent in the comms industry, it tends to leak all the way to the top. McKinsey & Company says women experience pipeline leakage at three primary points: being unable to enter, being stuck in the middle or being locked out of the top. Each pipeline pain point presents its own challenges, but also opportunities to stop the leak. Wireless operator Sprint is making a conscious effort to improve its own pipeline from new recruits to the C-suite, and it wants the rest of the industry to do the same. In this Women in Comms radio show, WiC Board Member and Sprint Vice President of Enterprise Sales Nelly Pitocco will give us her take on the industry's pipeline challenges. Pitocco, who joined Sprint in May and has spent 20 years in the comms industry, will also offer solutions, share how Sprint is tackling the challenge within its own organization and take your questions live on air.