Once upon a time, many years ago all that existed of Shenzhen was a little fishing village. At present, it can be called the silicon valley of China. How did this city evolve into what it is today? What businesses are found there? BUKOLA OGUNSINA writes.
“I want to play Strauss when I see the green areas in the city, Liszt when I am at the seaside, and ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ when I see the skyscrapers. All of my foreign friends who have visited Shenzhen love it very much.” – Lang Lang, world renowned pianist, Shenzhen.
Shenzhen, approaching the city was like approaching a virtual reality. The picturesque grey glass buildings in the backdrop of greenery made it look like a chapter from a fairy tale, except this was reality. It made it so difficult to picture what Shenzhen used to be, a small fishing village and compelled visitors to channel thoughts into what it is now, an innovation hub.
A visit to Shenzhen Museum hall which officially opened to the public on Christmas day of the year 2008, tells the history of the city, its reform and opening up. One was fortunate to see the old Shenzhen merge with the new and have a glimpse of the folk culture. Shenzhen, we were told by the museum guide has the third largest seaport after Shanghai and Singapore.
That the mobile high tech company Huawei would choose to pitch its tent in Shenzhen is hardly a surprise, attesting to the allure of the technology induced cosmopolitan city.
“One third of the global population use Huawei technology,” the vice president of the International Media Affairs Corporate Communications Department, Joe Kelly revealed to us, stating that the company’s largest customer in Africa is Nigeria. “Africa is one of our fastest growing markets. We expand our businesses according to our operations,” he said. Huawei has invested in some African countries.
With about 160 different nationalities working at the mobile smartphone company, Kelly noted that the world would be more technically advanced in two to three decades and as such the company is preparing for these challenges ahead. Huawei will contribute to spreading internet services by making it affordable, the vice president said.
In terms of what makes Huawei different from other mobile companies, he confirmed, “Our commitment to R&D…as our revenue grows the amount we invest in R&D grows as well. Our commitment to investment is why we are successful.”
Another strong pointer towards Huawei’s success is its ability to focus on its customers. “Strongest voice in the rooms comes from the customers. We listen to their problems and try to help them solve it,” he said. And because Kelly believes that in the future most companies will be IT compliant, Huawei invests 10 percent in mathematics. “Some of the basic things we do can have an impact on the world,” he noted.
Asked whether Huawei was aware of some of its products being counterfeited and of low quality, the Briton remarked that he was unaware of any counterfeited Huawei products, and if such was the case it would be helpful to draw his attention to it. “Huawei will never go for low price, low cost or low quality, as this would undermine the strategic advantage we have built over the past two decades,” he said. He pointed out that several people were involved in quality check to ensure only good products were placed in the market, adding Huawei’s low end phones were just as good as the high end ones.
Huawei’s first overseas office opened in Moscow, Russia in 1997, thanks to IBM supporting the company’s quest to go global. Relating to financing, 80 percent of the funds borrowed by Huawei came from overseas banks. Kelly pointed out that Huawei was at present leading in producing the five gigabyte internet broadband that would become commercially available in 2020.
While Huawei deals mainly in the expertise and design side of production, it partners with companies such as Foxcom, Flextronics and BYD to help in manufacturing the products such as smartphones and other large equipment.
Leaving Huawei, the tall glass skyscraper buildings housing Tencent headquarters in Shenzhen, makers of Wechat, among others, welcomed us to explore. Weixin another name for Wechat was launched in 2011, ranking 4th in social media. Our guide at Wechat explained to us that Tencent’s annual revenue in USD by 2016 rose 28 percent, with net profit margin rising by 48 percent. Currently, reports state that there are 889,000,000 million Wechat users in the world.
She also pointed out that Wechat is mainly used in China for almost every routine task. Wechat pay/wallet is linked to a bank account. By scanning barcodes you can pay for all kinds of services to include flight tickets, fruit delivery, coupons and so on. These functions at present apply in China. Hospital reservations are made through Wechat as well as checking health results for hospital tests. Also visas to Hong Kong and Macau can be applied for through Wechat and results can be received likewise instantly. The social apps include games, QQ reading, Tencent reading and so on. Tencent also has its own charity and operates in conjunction with about 300 charities across China.
The next stop was at Da Jang Innovations (DJI), experts in making civilian drones. According to information gathered from the host, DJI started small as a garage company in 2006 with about 20 staff before evolving into a large company with currently 8000 people in its employ. We were welcomed by DJI’s public relations director, Oliver Wang Who gave us a grand tour of the drones built by the company. “Africa is a large market. We have local dealers in some major countries,” he said, adding “we hope that the share of African business in our whole picture gets larger and larger.”
One of the drones on display was the AGRAS MG- 1, constructed with agriculture in mind. It sprays pesticide on farms. With a 12 minute flight time the drone costs 10, 000 dollars, with replaceable batteries that cost about 300 US dollars. DJI manufactures its products by itself.
The company’s largest market is currently the US, EU and Australia. “We are more than a drone company,” Wang stated, adding the company had diversified into agriculture, search and rescue, sports, news broadcasting, real estate, tourism, wild life monitoring, archaeology, surveying and mapping and education. Its key partners include United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Lufthansa, and Marriott, among others.
Similarly, DJI contributes to Robomasters to help support and improve on the next generation of innovators.
How was Shenzhen able to evolve? Through hardwork and dedication and the quest to be developed in a competitive world. Perhaps therein lies the answer to preventing mass movements (leaving villages nearly empty) from rural areas to urban. Shenzhen has proven that rural areas can be developed and provide more jobs and generate incomes for society.
As Nigeria is on the way to diversifying its economy, this perhaps is a key area the Federal Government can embrace to eradicate unemployment and at the same time propel development and generate income.