How to engage with Huawei

Huawei Watch. Courtesy: moldovancsaba, Pixabay

Huawei Watch. Courtesy: moldovancsaba, Pixabay

In January of this year I began a three month consultancy project with Huawei Technologies based at their European Research Centre in Munich. Quite a lot of my time was spent doing business development for the wearables and digital health markets and in particular talking to potential partners and suppliers many of whom had either not heard of Huawei or for whom it was a black box. This article attempts to give a high level overview of Huawei and provide some thoughts on how businesses, R&D teams and consultants can best engage with this fast growing technology titan which has over 180,000 staff globally.

The good news is that Huawei has a deliberate strategy of engaging with technology suppliers, partners and experts outside of China. Of course, the catch is that the technology or service needs to be outstanding. Some good examples are the Swedish company FingerPrint Cards and US based Synaptics who both make biometric fingerprint sensors for Huawei's smartphones. But how can a startup or a consultant without any direct contacts in the right Huawei Business Group(BG) begin to engage? The first step is to understand Huawei's structure.  

Huawei is a privately held ICT business founded 30 years ago with its headquarters in Shenzhen, China. It has a cake like structure with the base layer focussed on research and development in fifteen Research Centres(RC) spread around the World, including where I worked in Munich. Some of the research is fundamental, focussing on areas such as 5G mobile networks, optical data transmission and artificial intelligence. Other RC groups such as the wearables team in Munich focus on creating technology demonstrators to prove new technologies and concepts for one of the three BGs which form the cake's filling. The largest of these is the Carrier BG which is the World's largest telecommunications equipment supplier generating over half of Huawei's $75B total revenues in 2016. The Consumer BG is the World's third largest smartphone manufacturer and generated one third of the total revenue with the remainder from the Enterprise BG which focusses on services for areas such as healthcare and transportation. The three BGs are located in China and are topped off with a management function which is the top layer of the cake. Sitting outside of the cake structure is HiSilicon which is owned by Huawei and supplies a wide range of silicon chips to the BGs. Where to start?

Businesses based outside of China who want to engage with Huawei should first consider trying to engage with one of Huawei's 15 RCs. This could for example be to collaborate on a specific R&D project or to provide a warm introduction to the right team in the right BG. Whilst each RC focusses on different areas, many of them have direct links with all three business groups. This is because a lot of the RC staff have relocated from China. Also, most projects must get "buy in" from one of the BGs that in effect acts like a customer, including providing funding for a project or consultant. The RC staff are therefore highly motivated to retain and nurture their links with the key decision makers in the BGs. For example, my former Huawei colleagues in Munich have excellent relationships with senior managers in both smartphone and wearables product development teams in the Consumer BG. 

Consultants should also consider making links with their local RC but should probably first seek to identify any local services companies that have a contract with Huawei to supply consultancy services to Huawei. As I am based in the UK this is GIOS Technology and more specifically their talent acquisition partner Jessica Wang. The alternative of trying to negotiate a consultancy contract directly with Huawei will probably be rejected by the RC's purchasing group. My final advice is that you may need to be patient. In my case going from the initial chat with GIOS to a signed contract took nearly 6 months, but was definitely worth waiting for.      


Mark Catchpole