Jason Juang shapes HP's new strategy in gaming PC market to boost sales in China
Jason Juang, managing director of HP China, clearly remembers details of his first visit to the Chinese mainland 26 years ago.
The Shanghai airport was small and shabby. Even a short shower was enough to flood it.
In 1993, as an employee of the US tech giant HP Inc, Juang was sent to the Chinese mainland to share his marketing knowledge and experiences with the local staff. Back then, computers were a luxury for many Chinese companies, let alone individual consumers.
Within less than three decades, however, China has become the world's largest market for electronics. Having witnessed ups and downs of the country's electronics market for over 20 years, Juang said he is amazed by its unbelievable transformation from nothing to top.
"We knew it (the transformation) would happen, but never expected it to come at such a stunning speed," said Juang.
The 56-year-old senior executive has spent most of his career with HP, starting from a front-line sales professional to his current position at the helm of the company's China business. His down-to-earth working style has had an impact on how HP China works.
Now riding the gaming and esports boom in China, Juang wants to inject a fresh and strong momentum into the 200-year-old US company's business in the country. He wants to bring state-of-the-art, tailor-made products to China and encourage local innovation.
"With 619 million e-gamers, China is now the world's largest gaming market. Such a sprawling size has triggered changes in what consumers want," Juang said.
The gaming images are getting increasingly refined, which generates higher demand for PC hardware. "I am very excited when I see my daughter play e-games, The games are just like immersive movies, with players functioning as film directors who can control how the story develops."
He noticed such a trend in 2014 while exploring how to better sell consumer electronics online. He met executives from JD Inc, a Chinese e-commerce platform. The platform's giant data pool and buyers' online feedback revealed an increasing interest among consumers in gaming-related electronics.
Juang decided to launch the HP Omen, a tailor-made PC laptop for local gaming enthusiasts. It proved to be a hit. It was later launched in Australia, and quickly became the top gaming PC brand there as well.
"Fortunately, the US headquarters listened to our voice and they trusted us to make such a decision," Juang said.
According to him, such trust cannot be built in a day. It is a longtime process of two-way communication and "we need to prove to them through success and facts".
Apparently, the senior executive has done a good job in that respect, with Alex Cho, president of HP's global personal systems, recently praising that "Chinese gamers' feedback and insights importantly inspire our worldwide gaming strategy and ecosystem".
To better understand local users' interests, HP has set up a gaming community, which now has 200,000 members. The company organizes a string of offline activities to help grow the community and learn from their feedback.
"We pursue meaningful innovation. That is, the technology must mean something to consumers so their feedback matters," Juang said, adding that HP has learned a lot from consumers in hardware design, what should be included in PC accessories, and the addition of a command center in the HP Omen PC series to allow rapid settings for games.
To better resonate with young people in China, HP has launched initiatives like HP Dream Factory to support the next generation of entrepreneurs in China. As a noncommercial student program of HP in China, HP Dream Factory now covers more than 200 colleges in 200 cities to function as a platform for students to sharpen their business acumen.
According to research company International Data Corp, the market for gaming desktops, notebooks, and monitors will grow 7.3 percent this year to reach 41.5 million units.
Jitesh Ubrani, an analyst at IDC, said in a research note that the rise of esports, and an abundance of video games, will continue to drive the market forward, reaching 55.3 million units by 2023 at a compound annual growth rate of 7.4 percent.
HP will no doubt seek to garner as much market share as possible. Until then, part of Juang's spare time, if any, will be spent visiting Beijing's traditional vegetable markets to buy food.
For him, that is the other side of China's high-rise office towers. Embracing more sides can help him better understand the world, he said.
"Though HP is the world's largest PC maker, we must approach our business with a small company's mindset," Juang said. "We should never take anything for granted - we should not think that whenever we enter a market, people will always pay for our products."
According to him, brand or product positioning in niche markets is the most interesting thing in China, because the nation is so gigantic that every niche market can present tons of opportunities.
"Every time we talk about it, we feel infinite vitality. But every time we enter a niche, we also feel mounting competition," Juang said.
Though the global PC industry is now 40 years old, Juang said the entry of Chinese smartphone brands such as Xiaomi and Huawei into the arena demonstrates that there is still room for growth and new possibilities for PCs in China.
"We can better find our fundamental advantages - our product quality and service - amid competition," Juang said.