Kingdom is growth driver for smartphone makers [Arab News (Saudi Arabia)]
(Arab News (Saudi Arabia) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Riyadh: Abdul Hannan Tago | Arab News staffThe GCC overall, Saudi Arabia in particular, is a lucrative region for companies such as Huawei as people generally have a high level of disposable income and tend to be early adopters of consumer products. The Kingdom's market is also significant for Huawei today as both a growth driver and a region where Huawei can really contribute to the advancement of the overall technology landscape based on more than two decades of success in the field of technology. On the back of a new country-wide retail partnership and the Saudi release of its latest world's slimmest Ascend P6 smartphone, which marks the first market in the Middle East for the new high-tech phone, Arab News speaks with James Wu, CEO of Huawei Saudi Arabia, to find out the company's plans for the Saudi retail market.
Considered by many as a challenger brand, tell us more about Huawei's latest partnership with SHAS and how Huawei aims to gain visibility in a crowded retail market? Huawei continues to succeed in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world as a result of our continued investment in bold, strategic technologies that create value for consumers and our strategy of deepening relationships with leading local partners such as SHAS. Huawei's latest agreement with SHAS, one of the leading and fastest growing companies in the trade and distribution of smart technology solutions in the Kingdom, will see the company take charge of distributing Huawei smartphones and tablets through its own popular iStore sales outlets as well as through its extensive trade network of independent, open market retail partners. Alongside the distribution agreement, we have also confirmed that SHAS will be stocking the company's upcoming flagship Ascend P6 smartphone already available locally from Aug. 1. SHAS will further cover distribution of various other Huawei handset categories in the coming months. The momentum behind such devices is being supported by Huawei's strategic alliances with leading telecom operators across the Kingdom. We are, for example, teaming up with Mobily to release the Ascend P6 smartphone in a special bundle offer. By partnering with top operators and through extending our reach within the open retail space with groups like SHAS, we are excited to be bringing great technology to market faster than we have in the past, while also giving more people across the Kingdom the chance to experience Huawei for themselves.
How Huawei aims to stand out from market leaders such as Apple and Samsung? At the end of the day the products really do speak for themselves. It is thus very important for us to give the Saudi public more and more opportunities to experience Huawei technology. Across any product range, whether introductory smartphones or top of the line models, we focus on consistently raising the bar in offering customers the best value. We do this on the hardware front through extended battery power and high-powered cameras offered even on very basic models. We have done this on the software side as well, tying up with groups like Google and Microsoft to get the latest version of Android OS on units like the Ascend P6. Our ability to provide consumers with the best technologies and features are a result of our unwavering commitment to research and development, coupled with our customer-centric approach of regularly engaging with customers and gleaning insights into their needs. In addition, we have an unparalleled understanding of telecom operators and consumers' need and aspirations, as we are in a unique position of being able to leverage our carrier heritage and expertise. Furthermore, we can offer strong customer support to the Saudi public through our partnership with companies like SHAS as consumers can visit any one of their iCare service centers for regular maintenance and warranty guarantees on Huawei devices.
Launching the Ascend P6 in Saudi Arabia, how do you see it competing with other top smartphone models such as iPhone 5 or Galaxy S4? Any global company will tell you that the consumer device industry, particularly on smartphones, is a very competitive business to be in. Huawei is further coming in as a challenger brand; one that many people may not have been familiar with one or two years ago. In fact, the exceptional technology that Huawei brings to the market is unparalleled. This is evident in the industry firsts that we have achieved this year in the smart phones market, — the fastest 4G LTE smartphone (Ascend P2), largest (Ascend Mate) and now slimmest (Ascend P6). As one of the flagship smart phones of the Huawei Ascend P series, the Ascend P6 is the latest offering behind our recent charge into the high-end smart phone category. First of all, the Ascend P6 is ultra slim at just 6.18 mm — the slimmest in the world — and weighs just 120g. While it is small enough to slip into the tiniest of pockets or clutch bags, the stylish Ascend P6 is also designed to be seen and coveted. That is made easier with a 5MP front-facing camera. Stocked with Android's latest 4.2.2 OS and with a whopping 2000mAh battery, Huawei has also added in its own power saving technology, which improves performance by more than 30 percent compared with smartphone batteries of equal size. Offered at just SR1,599, the Ascend P6 clearly illustrates our belief that there's no need to compromise when desiring the perfect smartphone in the premium market segment.
Is Huawei today focusing on a few select products or a mass-market approach, and how does the Ascend P6 fit within Huawei's overall smartphone portfolio in Saudi Arabia? In the Kingdom and globally, there's an increasing demand for innovative devices, and that is clearly no longer limited to just a single premium tier. The average price of a smartphone globally has plunged to SR1,400 from SR1,680 since the beginning of 2012, analysts estimate. At Huawei, we have a strong legacy in the wider ICT sector with over 150,000 employees worldwide and last year allocating $4.83 billion to our R&D programs — all numbers that have risen substantially year-on-year. This enables us to build real economies of scale through which we can offer first-class technology through many different product models. Today, Huawei's main Ascend smartphone line spans four different product series. These include Youth, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond class, each offering a unique technology package to consumers at a variety of competitive price points. Not all companies are like that, which is a key differentiator Huawei brings to the market.
What are Huawei's current ambitions in terms of device market share both in this region and globally? A core differentiator for our business globally and in the Middle East is our Cloud-Pipe-Device strategy. We are committed to customer-centricity and our goal is to deliver competitive products and services based on insights into customer needs, thereby creating greater value for customers across our three business units — Carrier, Enterprise and Device. Specifically, we aim to replicate the success of our Carrier Network Business, where we work for 45 out of the world's top 50 telecoms operators, within our Device Business and to achieve our vision of delivering endless possibilities within the consumer space. The GCC overall, Saudi Arabia in particular, is a lucrative region for companies like Huawei as people generally have a high level of disposable income and tend to be early adopters of consumer products. The Kingdom's market is also significant for Huawei today as both a growth driver and a region where Huawei can really contribute to the advancement of the overall technology landscape based on more than two decades of success in the technology field. Looking ahead, we anticipate the Middle East to remain one of the key expansion markets for Huawei in 2013 keeping at pace with — or even above — the brand's outlook of around 10 percent annual growth in 2013. Our most recent expansion within countries such as Saudi Arabia has also helped our worldwide consumer business realize global sales revenue of $7.7 billion last year, shipping more than 127 million devices.
This year, we hope to boost our mobile business revenue to as much as $9 billion shipping out 50 to 60 million smartphones worldwide. It's an ambitious target, yes. But we are ready to rise to the challenge.
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