Zhou Houjian was born in Shandong province in 1957 and graduated with a degree in radio engineering.
In 1982 he joined the Qingdao TV Factory where the 25 year-old soon became one of the firm’s acknowledged technology experts and problem solvers.
In 1988 Zhou was sent on a management course. It was a revelation for a man who had focused on engineering to that point. Management, he learned, was (something of) a science too, and he quickly embraced the need to improve his managerial abilities. In 1992 he was made director of the factory.
On getting the top job, Zhou was faced with a crisis in the domestic TV industry. He used the opportunity to implement changes, streamlining the management team (all of whom were Communist Party members) from 147 executives to 99. This was unprecedented. In a further sign he meant business he also sent the remainder of the ‘cadre team’ to Shandong University for management training.
As he told one interviewer, to change an enterprise you must first change the people.
He then renamed the firm Hisense, diversified into air-conditioners and listed it in 1997.
Perhaps his proudest moment: in 2005, Hisense made a breakthrough in chip technology, allowing Chinese TVs to be made without foreign chip imports for the first time.
Having led Hisense to a dominant position in China’s flat panel TV industry, Zhou (now chairman) has two goals: to increase Hisense’s international presence and boost its R&D capability.
The firm began selling its products abroad in 2003 and now has five overseas production bases, and generates 20% of sales from foreign markets.
Zhou wants to double this, and believes emerging markets will be the growth engine. According to the China Daily, around 80% of the televisions bought in Africa are made by Hisense.
The research and development budget, currently 5% of sales, will be upped further.
Need to know
Zhou predicts sales will break through $8 billion this year. Hisense’s results have been impressive – especially given the backdrop of global recession. Between January and September, sales and profits grew 19.6% and 135% respectively, while overseas sales also rose 16.28%.
In his own words
“The competition between companies is a never-ending marathon.”
He likes to watch football (Hisense sponsors local team Qingdao Hailifeng) and boxing.
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