Yang Yuanqing was born in Anhui province in 1964 and graduated from the University of Science and Technology of China in 1989 with a Masters degree in computer science. He then joined Lenovo as a salesman.
From salesman to president
In his first three years with the firm, Yang wasn’t well known. When in 1992 Liu Chuanzhi, the founder of Lenovo, promoted him to be the head of a department selling HP’s products many were surprised. But Yang doubled the division’s sales by the end of the year, and two years later revenues were Rmb300 million, up from an initial Rmb30 million.
In 1994, Lenovo decided to make its own PC brands and Yang was made general manager of the new division. Within a year, Lenovo’s PC sales reached the top three in the domestic market, and showed an annual growth rate of more than 130%. By the end of 1996, Lenovo PCs were dominating many customer segments in the market and Yang expanded into laptops and other hardware devices.
Yang got caught out by internet fever in the late 1990s, and announced an investment of Rmb200 million to set up new company 365FM. The dotcom bubble burst and the new company failed. It was the first time Lenovo was forced to announce large scale layoffs. “I’m still hurting,” Yang later admitted, but viewed it as an important business lesson.
In 2001, Yang was nevertheless promoted to CEO and chairman of Lenovo Group. Ambitious to make Lenovo an international company, he bought IBM’s PC division in 2005, a deal that local media labelled as “a snake swallowing an elephant”. Post-deal integration was tough, and the global financial crisis didn’t help. Lenovo lost $256 million in 2008, facing its biggest challenge yet.
Turnover and new plan
In 2009 Yang lost his role of chairman, which was taken up once more by returning founder Liu Chuanzhi. Yang adjusted his marketing strategy, refocusing mainly on the Chinese market, and concentrating on the most profitable products.
It worked. Three years later, Lenovo had turned around. In its most recent quarterly results, sales jumped 44% to $8.4 billion with net income $153 million, up 54% year-on-year. Its market share in China was 35%, a record.
Last November, Yang regained the chairman role and announced a $175 million joint venture with Japan’s NEC Corp. To his satisfaction Lenovo also overtook Dell to become the second largest PC maker globally.
“We are closing in on the top spot in PC sales, the gap is only 4%,” Yang told China Times.
In an internal staff meeting he set his sights on battling Apple too. Having launched the Lephone and LePad, Lenovo is to launch its own smart TV in May, beating Apple to market with a product for the first time.
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