MWC 2017: HTC has ‘turned corner’ after recent troubles

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Manufacturer starting to see positive reactions from UK retailers and operators  

HTC has “turned a corner” and claims it is beginning to see positive signs after a few years of uncertainty for the business.

The manufacturer didn’t launch a product at MWC but speaking to Mobile News, HTC president of Europe Greig Williams said the company is becoming much easier to engage with and is showing more urgency to achieve success.

In 2011, HTC was the fifth biggest smartphone manufacturer in the world and according to figures from Statistica, it accounted for 10.7 per cent of the market in Q2 that year.

However, its share has declined massively, and no longer features in the top performing vendors with analysts on a quarterly basis.

In July 2015, HTC changed the structure of the business, and just a month later announced plans to cut up to 2,500 jobs as part of a “business realignment”. This would be part of a wider global cost-cutting exercise that the company said would reduce operating expenditure by 35 per cent.

It also said global headcount would reduce by up to 15 per cent from a reported 16,746 employees in an attempt to streamline operations.

The manufacturer said it would establish “new business units” to focus on premium smartphones, virtual reality technology and connected products. HTC’s fourth quarter revenue was down 13 per cent year-on-year to $720.7 million but losses shortened from the period 12 months earlier from $133.1 million to $116.8 million.

The U Play and U Ultra smartphones were unveiled at the start of the year

Positivity

However, Williams claims to continue to see positive signs from consumers and industry partners towards it. He said pre-orders for its latest smartphones, the mid-range U Play and high-end U Ultra (pictured), have been “encouraging”. They went on sale at major retailers including Carphone Warehouse from March 1.

Williams added discussions and meetings with partners have now gone from talking about the difficulties the company faced to how they can drive business forward together.

“In our focus markets, we have definitely turned the corner,” said Williams. “I look across some key markets where we took some tough decisions, and they are starting to move nicely.

“We’re continuing to work through our problems – you can’t flick a magic switch. What I am seeing is more urgency,more understanding within the team, more focus on sales and consumers. That is changing but there is a long way to go.

“The response from our operator and retail partners has been positive – they sense something different happening. Doing the basics makes us easier to work with. Our customers were often surprised to see us but we are visiting them more frequently now.”

Clear engagement

At the Data Select Platinum Club conference in October, Williams declared HTC “open for business” in the B2B channel next year and committed to increasing support and investment for partners to boost its presence and sales there.

He admitted the manufacturer hasn’t always been the easiest to work with but, with increased support and investment for the channel next year, senses a radical change in its fortunes.

More than four months on, and he is starting to see that shine through but is under no illusions it is nowhere near the finished article in the business sector.

“In terms of the engagement, the benefits are starting to show. We have taken the team on a bit of a journey around what is required.

“The more you get involved, the more you get pulled in. When I look at distribution, there is more engagement with us which means more engagement with B2B. Trying to scale across all of the enterprises is very difficult because you need hundreds of people to do that.

“There are still some people that we need to visit regularly. It’s fine saying that, but when I next see them all, they will want to know what’s next.

“We have a way to go but it is becoming more of our discussions internally. To address B2B in some markets, we will pick partners that have scale and engagement with both the mobile and IT.”

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