Kazakhstan 2017 | TELECOMS & IT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Hou Tao, General Director of Huawei Technologies, on supporting telecoms operators' digital transformation, bringing 4G to Kazakhstan, and the trickle-down effect of knowledge transfers

Hou Tao
Born in 1981, Hou Tao holds a bachelor's degree in economics and another in Russian language and literature from Peking University. He joined Huawei in 2006 and has served as an account manager of the CIS regional division (2006-2009), head of Huawei’s representative office in Mongolia (2010-2011), and vice-president of VimpelCom’s Global Key Account Department (2012-2015). He was appointed the General Director of Huawei Technologies in Kazakhstan in 2015.

What role does Kazakhstan play in Huawei's overall portfolio and what is the country's potential for growth in the sector?

Kazakhstan is one of few countries developing dynamically during the current volatile period. The government focuses on modernization and improvement of the communication and IT infrastructure, which is vital for sustainable development. This is why Kazakhstan experiences a high demand for the newest ICT products and solutions that increase people's quality of life and the efficiency of its businesses. As a leading global ICT producer, Huawei supplies products and solutions to governments and enterprises in over 170 countries, and more than one-third of the world's population uses Huawei products and solutions. Kazakhstan is a strategically important country for the company and we intend to expand our business here. The local representative office was set up in 1998, and in 2007 the company established the Huawei Almaty subsidiary, with 80% of employees being local. In 2016, the company was renamed “Huawei Technologies Kazakhstan" LLP. In Kazakhstan we cover all three of the corporation's business lines. In its carrier business, Huawei is innovating to support telecoms operators' digital transformation and is driving the development of cutting-edge technologies such as 5G and IoT connectivity, which promise to reshape the role of telecoms operators across numerous industries.

How important is the consumer segment among the technology services and products of Huawei's portfolio?

Huawei Consumer Business Group is among the top-three leading smartphone producers in terms of shipments in the world. Revenue for the year increased by 41%, while the number of smartphones shipped increased by 25%, far exceeding the growth of the market of 3.1%. In Kazakhstan, the results are much more modest; Huawei currently holds just over 6.9% of the smartphone market here and sales of Huawei smartphones for the first five months of 2016 grew more than five fold. This increase in market share was possible thanks to the development of a retail and distribution network and increased marketing activity; we have signed a contract with major players such as Technodom, Sulpak, Mechta, Evrika, MNI, and Kcell. One of the main tasks of Huawei is to raise global awareness, so the company is investing in a variety of sports, entertainment, youth, and other projects.

Can you elaborate on your initiatives to promote cooperation in e-commerce?

We actively work with partners to develop cloud computing and big data platforms to help customers improve the efficiency of network transformation in all aspects, including architecture, hardware, and software services. Together, we help enterprises achieve success in digitalization. As for the promotion of e-commerce in Kazakhstan, Huawei is interested in cooperation and the implementation of joint projects in the field of promoting e-commerce and integration of payment systems. Ultimately, end users do not really care about the platform or application equipment being used. The main results are anywhere, anytime, with any device to obtain high-quality services. This is what we seek.

What opportunities does the Expo present for Huawei, and what is your vision for Digital Kazakhstan 2020?

President Nazarbayev, during his visit to China in 2014, met with Huawei Chairwoman of the Board of Directors Sun Yafang. Huawei expressed its willingness to support Kazakhstan during Expo by setting up connections for the exhibition premises so the numerous visitors and journalists from all over the globe could easily use mobile internet services. As for Digital Kazakhstan 2020, which aims to increase the number of regular internet users to 75% of the total population, Huawei has presented a concept for the development of national ICT projects within the framework of this program to the government. Huawei focuses on promoting the roadmap for the implementation of ICT projects. First of all we pay attention to the implementation of infrastructure projects to ensure the elimination of the digital divide and provide broadband internet access in remote settlements in rural areas, as well as the preparations for full-scale implementation of socially important systems such as e-learning and e-health.

What other major projects does Huawei have in the pipeline in Kazakhstan?

We are proud that in 2013 we won the tender and became a partner of Kazakhtelecom and its subsidiary Altel network for the construction, equipment supply, and delivery of 4G next-generation communication services. Based on the contract, Huawei has to cover all the cities of Kazakhstan with a 4G network by 2018. To date, most of the work has been done and the republic's population has been able to enjoy high-speed internet and make calls. Since late 2015 other operators in Kazakhstan gained the right to provide 4G services and Huawei actively cooperates with them.