Friday, September 9, 2011, 00:00

Huawei Indonesia: Reaching for No 1

By Rossie Indira

Huawei Indonesia: Reaching for No 1

Perhaps, its a matter of time before it happens.

Shenzhen-headquartered Huawei Technologies Co Ltd is forging ahead in its battle with Ericsson, the market leader, for the No 1 spot in Indonesias telecommunication market.

Huaweis steady ascent is unsurprising for those who know how hard it is working on making things better for its growing base of customers as well as its 1,500 or more employees, of whom 80 percent are Indonesians.

Established in Chinas southern coastal city of Shenzhen in Guangdong in 1987, Huawei is already the largest networking and telecommunications equipment supplier in China and the third largest supplier of mobile telecommunications infrastructure equipment in the world (after Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks).

In February 2010, it ranked fifth on the list of the Most Innovative Companies globally behind Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google.

Thanks to its innovations and emphasis on research and development (RD), the company has gone through a virtual metamorphosis in Indonesia.

In terms of almost everything size, market share, brand value, sales and reputation Huaweis rise is spectacular.

In 2010, it booked $1 billion in sales revenue in the country.

This, however, hasnt been easy given the rough weathers Huawei had to face in its initial years in Indonesia, after its entry into the vast archipelago, where several big players from the US, Japan and Europe had already set up bases.

It wasnt easy entering the Indonesian market at that time, says Dani K. Ristandi, deputy director (sales solution division) who has been with Huawei since day one of its Indonesia operations in 2000. I know how difficult it was, he adds.

My KPI (key performance indicators) at that time was not in terms of millions of dollars that could be generated and earned, but how many customers I contacted a week and how many of them agreed to meet me, Ristandi recalls.

The biggest challenge, he says, was to change the perception of operators, regulators and customers who thought that Chinese products were cheap, but of poor quality.

That was destined to change, and in 2003 came the happy times, when Huawei bagged its first contracts from two big cellular operators.

Chinese companies do not surrender easily, says Ristandi, explaining how Huawei worked hard to convince people about the strength and effectiveness of its solution devices.

The most formidable task, Ristandi recalls, was not about getting a toehold in the market, but making people take notice and believe in the company.

The mission is largely fulfilled.

We now offer customers a range of products and services and we always emphasize on innovations, in order to give our customers what they need and want. Thats our strength, says Yunny Christine, brand manager (integrated marketing communication). But thats easier said than done.

It needed enormous patience and courage of conviction to convince people that Huawei solutions are good, and better than those offered by others in the market.

Ristandi says, We invited them to visit our solutions we had around the world. We took them to Thailand. Some wanted to visit the US and Europe. We complied.

We also offered trials of our products and systems and made sure the duration of the trials (from 3 to 6 months) suited each of them.

Ristandi also says Huawei has always striven to be customer-friendly and offers customized solutions to meet individual needs.

The results are positive, and people now talk about its prompt delivery system, he says.

Onno Purbo, one of the most well-known telecommunication experts in Indonesia, is a huge fan of Huaweis devices. They never give me problems. I also hear from my friends that Huawei responds very quickly, he adds.

Huawei is also lauded for making payment modes easier for customers. Its solutions are quite good and cheap, says Adeng Kuslan, director of Nipress, also a telecommunications company.

And they offer really good payment terms on credit. In terms of this payment method, there is very little competition. Their main competitors are also from China, such as ZTE (from Shenzhen) and Fiber Home (from Wuhan), but the range of products /solutions from these companies is not as complete as Huaweis, he adds.

But Huawei does not offer vendor financing here. We only help customers get finances from Chinese financial institutions, says Christine.

Indonesian companies cant achieve what Huawei has achieved, says Suhono H. Supangkat who teaches at Bandung Institute of Technology.

Our government has done very little to support local manufacturers while their Chinese counterpart has done so much for their local companies. We have to change our governments mindset.

Indonesia must grow to be become a producer, not just a customer, he adds referring to Huaweis phenomenal growth and success in Southeast Asias largest economy.

The brand value of Huawei is very high in Indonesia. So much so that landing a job in the company is now every IT students dream.

Interests in Huawei among students are growing fast, says Akbar Respati Rajasa, a student at IT Telkom. They are very accommodating. They conduct entrance tests here on campuses.

Awards and honors are also flowing in for Huawei. In September 2010 it won the Corporate Use of Innovation Award from The Economist, in 2009 and 2010 the Best Wireless Telecom Equipment Vendor of the Year Award from consultant Frost Sullivan, and in March 2011 was ranked No 2 in Headset Top Brand Award by Marketing magazine.

But for Huawei, its peoples trust thats most rewarding.