Three years ago, Huawei entered the market with high ambitions but as Michael Garwood argues, it’s hard to see what has changed
It has been almost three years to the day since Chinese manufacturer Huawei first entered the UK B2B market.
The firm first introduced itself to a roomful of dealers at a Data Select event and the majority of those there, including myself, were impressed by what they had seen and heard.
Off the record, Huawei’s representatives declared it the “new HTC” – only cheaper – and the handsets it produced more than backed up those claims.
Their quality and build was rarely disputed – if at all – but the issues surrounding the Huawei brand were.
Today, it’s difficult to see what has changed.
The firm continues to release more-than-credible handsets, making efforts to stand out with a portfolio of ‘world firsts’.
This was again the case when it launched its latest high-end device, the Ascend P6, at London’s Roundhouse concert venue this month. It also repeated some very bold claims about the company’s abilities.
The firm’s devices chairman, Richard Yu, told invited journalist Huawei can compete with the very best in the market.
He mentioned Samsung and Apple by name, firms which hold more than 65 per cent of the market in western Europe, according to IDC. Huawei doesn’t make the top five.
In July 2011, Huawei claimed it would be the UK’s third biggest manufacturer by 2017.
This seemed like an unrealistic goal at the time – and it is hard to see it getting there based on what we’ve seen so far.
And that is Huawei’s biggest problem – its presence remains minimal, almost non-existent.
The launch of ‘world firsts’ such as the Ascend P2 in February, provides it with impressive headlines.
But since then, very little has been said about the handset. There has been little, if any, marketing behind it, leaving customers to find it themselves rather than being drawn by hype – a tactic that works for Samsung and Apple.
Huawei has the financial clout to make an aggressive move, yet it seems content to sit back.
Anyone who has visited the firm’s impressive and vast headquarters in Shenzhen will appreciate just how big an organisation it is.
Its R&D department is reputed to be one of the world’s biggest.
Financially, the firm is secure. Its last full-year financial profits topped £1.62 billion, up 32 per cent year on year – results many more established manufacturers would kill for. Nokia, for example, made a loss of more than £1.95 billion in 2012.
Three years ago, the average Joe on the street didn’t know what Huawei was – and I suspect little has changed today.
Rivals such as Samsung, Apple, Nokia, Sony Mobile and HTC spend million of pounds on advertising and building their brand every year.
Huawei, as Yu said, is capable of competing with the likes of Apple and Samsung in the quality, high-specced and innovative handset category. But until its attitude towards marketing changes, in the eyes of the customer, and particularly in B2B, it will struggle to be taken seriously.