Hawa Hyath, a UNISA graduate, technology and digital enthusiast barely even has 10 months on her role as Regional Marketing Director for Huawei and her team has managed to secure 10% of the market share. More than ever, she finally sounds able to look forward and reach that 20% they’re targeting. And her forward-looking at Huawei is a fascinating one: there’s the two day battery life promise of the Mate 8 and that P9 (and P9 Plus) which promises to be the most exciting Android device to hit our shelves (the Samsung Note 6 notwithstanding) when it launches within the new month.
And all of this is happening amidst a sea change in the way users — especially smartphone-addled younger adopters — expect to interact with their device and the world around them in a way like never before.
But first on Huawei’s agenda is the Mate 8, a big, but small smartphone designed to appeal to that very same set of young, tech-native users yearning for that premium feel and introduction to the phablet space. To call its local reveal a critical launch is an understatement: it was right at the heels of the P9 global launch. Ahead of the Mate 8’s introduction, two weeks ago, I sat down with Hawa in Johannesburg’s 4ways neighbourhood for a wide-ranging interview about the company’s present and future — particularly around products for millennials and the advent of Virtual Reality. The news of the day, the Mate 8 and G-series, seemed like a good way to kick things off.
The interview has been edited for clarity.
PAPI: How are you going to localize the content and new Huawei devices for the millennials, more so, the South African millennials?
HAWA: From a marketing perspective, I think that understanding our consumer and understanding their behavior is becoming a key component to how we actually bring products to this country and how we push to the product out. And also, from a Huawei perspective it’s not just about selling it to the operator and forgetting about it, so how I tie that back to your question is; I am looking to do innovative, out of the box marketing that is of relevance to my target market. So with the G series, you’ll see me going to varsity activations, to talk to my actual target market. You’ll see me interacting with them, you will see us taking the product to the ideal target market and looking at their experience and interaction with the devices within their natural uses – which is the everyday varsity life. Going to their environment, and tapping into that with people who they admire, who they relate to and giving them the devices to try out for themselves.
Essentially we’re looking at a city to city, campus by campus activation, and getting students talking about the device. I’m keen to know what the y think of the devices.
P: Going back to the Mate 8, how is its strategy different from the rest of the world, are you looking at localizing it for the South African and African market as well?
H: I think the big differentiatior for us is that we are now owning a phablet category, so we think that understanding of the phablet market and even the concept of the phablet is not widely used. So the differentiator for us locally is to position the G8 and the Mate 8 in that phablet category. We are not playing around with the big screen. This is your big screen, but the big difference for us on the Mate 8 is user consumption. So the natural point for everyone on the mate 8 is that we are driving the two day usage [on one single charge], that is my key differentiator. Although, globally at Huawei we’ve pitched the device as competitor for big screen or the fastest processor. Here at South Africa I am focused on usage. Eventually, this will be your lifestyle accessory. You will get two days battery life on it, your data is secure, the processing power is the fastest and so forth.
We’ve also chosen a few South Africans to better tell the story. Those unique South Africans have used the device during their everyday routines and throughout the launch period of the Mate 8 they will share their stories on how the Mate 8 has impacted them, productively so. We are looking at business people, entrepreneurs, athletes and creatives.
P: Would you say, those that you have just mentioned, are your target market?
H: Yes, absolutely. Definitely for me [its] positioned at the high end business user, or the highly creative. Social media driven consumer.
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P: What would you say is THEE standout feature on the Mate 8, from your own personal user experience
H: So I have been a long time Mate 7 user, and honestly the biggest standout for me is the 100% increase on CPU performance and the quick charge capabilities are amazing. Oh yes, and the two-day battery life. If you were to ask me, if I could keep my lipstick on for that amount of time I’d be the happiest girl (laughs).
P: What would you say are some of the biggest challenges facing the brand itself in Southern Africa?
H: So in the value segment, Huawei is known as the value segment, my biggest challenge as the marketing director in Eastern Southern Africa and Southern Africa is breaking that wall of the value segment and making people understand we have higher end devices premium devices and that we are more ready now to take on the +$500 market. That we have devices to cover that higher category, higher end market. So a big challenge for the brand is to get people to accept Huawei in that +$500 category. In the same breath, create an opportunity – not challenge – using the middle to higher end devices. I think, if I win in the middle to high end with the G-family I will cement my brand into a new level.
P: I think its great that the brand is catering for those in the middle to higher end. Whats the vision for the Huawei brand in Southern Africa?
H: So, Huawei South Africa has a very aggressive business leader. She has made no qualms about the fact that we are targeting the 20% market share. So since we joined the business in over 6-8 months we have cemented the 10% position of the market share and now we are looking to aggressively climb against competitors.
Read my first impressions of the Mate 8 here