Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei vows to recruit more global talent as firm seeks to overcome US sanctions

Huawei Technologies Co, crippled its core smartphone business, Ren Zhengfei, formerly China’s biggest smartphone vendor, tighter restrictions imposed last year, HiSilicon,  5G , barred HiSilicon from outsourcing production, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, expanding its cloud services operations, patent licensing deals, partnerships for its HarmonyOS mobile platform, selling its Honor budget smartphone unit, smartphone, WeChat, Weibo

Huawei Technologies Co, the Chinese telecommunications giant, plans to recruit more international talent by offering them higher salaries than current market rates, as the company pushes to overcome US trade sanctions that have crippled its core smartphone business, according to an internal speech by founder and chief executive Ren Zhengfei.

“Our company is now in a critical period of strategic survival and development, so we must have the required talent as we charge ahead,” Ren said in an internal meeting with Huawei scientists and other employees in August.

“We must recruit people who are more capable than us,” he said. “Our compensation packages must align with international talent markets, [be] higher than those offered by local talent markets. This is necessary to attract the best talent.”

Ren, who also indicated that “radicals” should be welcomed in the company, said Huawei has not changed its policies on salary and bonus distribution, job grade raises and company share distribution, despite the disruptions caused by US trade sanctions in the past two years.

“There has been no chaos within the company,” Ren said. “Instead, the company is now more united than ever, and has even attracted more talent.”

Shenzhen-based Huawei had 197,000 employees worldwide, according to its 2020 annual report.

At the meeting, Ren answered questions from researchers who worked at the company’s various labs, including on Huawei’s commitment to long-term research amid the company’s struggles with US sanctions that have cut its access to major technologies.

Privately held Huawei, the world’s largest telecoms equipment maker and formerly China’s biggest smartphone vendor, was added to Washington’s trade blacklist in 2019. It has scrambled to adapt its operations to tighter restrictions imposed last year, covering access to chips developed or produced using US technology, from anywhere.

Ren assured the researchers that Huawei will continue to fund various research and development programmes, some of which could take years before the company sees these efforts pay off.

“We allow HiSilicon to continue climbing the Himalayas, but most of our employees will grow potatoes and graze sheep and cattle at the foot of the mountain to provide a steady flow of food to those who are climbing the mountain,” Ren said, referring to Huawei’s integrated circuit (IC) design unit.

HiSilicon is responsible for designing the processors that power Huawei‘s smartphones and its 5G base stations. Tightened US sanctions have barred HiSilicon from outsourcing production of its IC designs to the world’s biggest chip foundry, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

Ren’s speech provides some comfort to Huawei moving forward, following its worst first-half revenue decline in decades, down 29.4 per cent from a year ago to 320 billion yuan (US$49 billion), amid US trade sanctions on essential hardware components and software that hammered sales at both its smartphone and 5G network equipment businesses.

Since late last year, Huawei has made tactical moves to build up its other businesses, while working to stay relevant in the smartphone industry amid stiff competition from other major Chinese Android handset vendors, including Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo.

Those initiatives include expanding its cloud services operations in the Asia-Pacific region, helping domestic enterprises cut their carbon footprint, supplying more 5G base stations and core network gear to China’s major telecoms operators, increasing patent licensing deals, establishing partnerships for its HarmonyOS mobile platform and selling its Honor budget smartphone unit.

In August, Huawei rotating chairman Guo Ping announced that the company plans to revive the fortunes of its struggling smartphone and chip design businesses.

“We will eventually retake our throne in the smartphone market, while continuing to improve our chip-making capabilities,” said Guo in comments published on the firm’s social media accounts on WeChat and Weibo.

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