Yang Yuanqing, chairman and CEO of PC vendor Lenovo Group Ltd., arrived in Taiwan on July 4 with little fanfare. Six months earlier, his era at the helm of the computer giant officially began after he took over as chairman from Liu Chuanzhi.
"I've come to see some materials and semiconductor suppliers and makers of finished products," Yang said of his two-day visit whose itinerary was not disclosed. Much of his time was spent at the W Hotel in Taipei's posh Xinyi District meeting nonstop with top executives of companies in the computer supply chain, including Compal Electronics Inc. president Ray Chen, Pegatron Corp. chairman T.H. Tung, and Wistron Corp. chairman and CEO Simon Lin.
After a full day of discussions, Yang was hoarse when he met with CommonWealth Magazine for the only one-on-one interview he granted during his brief stay in Taiwan. At 47 years old, he may have been younger than all of the Taiwanese high-tech CEOs by at least 10 years, but his mannerisms and gestures exuded the confidence typical of a leader of a big multinational corporation.
Though the computer industry suffered a downturn in 2011, Lenovo pushed aggressively to expand. It teamed up with Japanese computer brand NEC to launch Japan's biggest personal computer company and acquired German computer maker Medion AG to strengthen its presence in Europe. It also recruited former Acer Inc. CEO Gianfranco Lanci and invited former Sony CEO Nobuyuki Idea to sit on its board. By the end of the year, it had sped past Acer and then Dell to become the world's second-biggest PC vendor behind Hewlett-Packard. (Table 1)
This push into Asia and Europe was the second global assault engaged in by China's biggest PC vendor. The first came in 2004, when Lenovo acquired a unit three times its size – IBM's Personal Computing Division – planting the company's flag firmly into United States soil. Yang relocated to IBM's offices in North Carolina to familiarize himself with Western culture and to learn how a multinational corporation manages itself.
Yang has been a key initiator of Lenovo's two major forays into the outside world. "Lenovo epitomizes China's growth and development. It involves rapid learning and absorption and then confidently striding and expanding into the outside world," says Jason Hsuan, the chairman and CEO of PC monitor maker TPV Technology Ltd.
In May 2012, Lenovo beat Apple to the punch with the launch of a smart TV, which Yang described as symbolizing the company's move into the "PC+ era" and the final cog in its four-pronged strategy, after PCs, tablets and smartphones.
Liu Chuanzhi, who founded Lenovo with 200,000 renminbi, transformed its nature, from being a company primarily affiliated with the Chinese Academy of Sciences into a private-sector enterprise with a performance-based management system, listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange.
Now, "Yang Yuanqing's mission will be to lead Lenovo into the international arena, because he knows Lenovo can't simply be China's No. 1," Hsuan says.
Following are highlights from CommonWealth Magazine's exclusive interview with Yang Yuanqing.
Q: Lenovo is now the world's second biggest computer brand. What is your strategy for the future?
A: Our dream is to become the top company in this industry, and it's a dream that's very likely to come true, because Lenovo is clearly growing faster than its competitors in emerging markets, especially in China. We have stronger advantages.