It only took engineer Ren Zhengfei 3 decades to build and establish one of China’s biggest corporate empires, Huawei, a telecoms and consumer electronics company operating internationally.
Mr. Ren founded Huawei in 1987 after the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) engineering corps was disbanded, him being one of the engineers being let go. With only 21,000 yuan (S$4,180) from his savings, he started selling telephone switches imported from Hong Kong then eventually moved to making his own products.
Huawei is one of China’s greatest success stories, with over 180,000 employees and operating in more than 170 countries. In 2017, the company’s revenue reached a total of $92.5 billion (S$126.7 billion). This year, Huawei overtook Apple and became the world’s second largest manufacturer of smartphones, behind Samsung with only a 5 percent difference in market share. In terms of supplying telecommunications network equipment, Huawei is the world’s no. 1, having overtaken Ericsson back in 2012.
Even though the company has world recognition, it remains highly secretive and private. Mr. Ren, the company’s CEO, has never given a single media interview in his 30 years in business and rarely appears in corporate events. In addition to this, not much has been revealed about the financial and organisational structure of the corporation, making his supposed 1.42 percent share in the company unreliable facts.
Last week, Huawei made headlines over the arrest of Ms. Meng who is the CFO and eldest child of Mr. Ren. She was apprehended in Canada for espionage fears, 5G dominance and violation of Iran sanctions. Ms. Meng has also been a target by the US government as she is suspected to be the next heir to the Chinese conglomerate. Huawei’s high-ranking official’s arrest has only increased the tension on the ongoing dispute between the US and China.
Ms. Meng was recently promoted by her father into one of four vice-chairman seats in the company, a signal of her preparation for taking over the family business.
According to tech analyst Tarun Pathak, the recent controversies will not pose as a threat to the company’s growth because Huawei has been doing very well in establishing its brand and image the past two years and added that “almost 50 percent of its sales come from outside China and there are emerging markets which present a significant opportunity to grow. The US is an opportunity, but their US plans look tough because it’s the only region where political entanglements have impacted their smartphone business.”
Family Background and Dynasty
Aside from Mr. Ren and Ms. Meng, it was recently discovered that there are more family members related to the business.
Mr. Ren’s son, Meng Ping and the former’s three sisters are also connected with Huawei, holding different positions.
The daughter of his second wife, Yao Ling, has worked as his secretary. Ms. Annabel Yao is the most outspoken of the family, being active in Instagram and her luxurious lifestyle.
Mr. Ren’s third wife, Su Wei, is known to be a director of one of Huawei’s subsidiaries.
Keeping the business functioning with family members holding key positions is a typical Chinese business strategy.