Lenovo may be unfamiliar to most American consumers, but in China the computer maker is a household brand, as well known and beloved as Apple is here. Maybe more so. Lenovo is ubiquitous in its homeland, with more than 15,000 stores in cities and even the smallest villages. That's almost as many locations as Starbucks has worldwide, nearly twice as many locations as Walmart, and roughly 14,700 more stores than Apple has.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

The story of Lenovo is a parable for Chinese business: Liu Chuanzh, its leading founder survived harsh treatment by the Communist government and went on to teach himself how to run a business, which ultimately blossomed into China’s biggest PC maker. Now it’s producing the industry’s most reliable machines, redefining what “Made in China” means.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

In the new China, Lenovo's store in Yi County, outside Beijing, is the nicest business on the block. It’s also a community fixture. Families gather on the sidewalk at night to watch movies that owner Li Yangchao plays for free on a large Lenovo screen.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

A street scene in Yi County. Lenovo has something HP, Apple, and its other competitors don't: China, a vast market to test out new products and approaches. In emerging markets such as India and Brazil, Lenovo is unleashing tactics from market analysis to store launches that it honed in China.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

Lenovo's China business generates more than $10 billion in revenue. The potential for growth is significant as economic benefits (not to mention broadband service) reach the rural population--more than half of the country's 1.3 billion residents.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

The dirt road-side path from the local crossroads market to Lenovo's store in the village of Da Longhua.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

The site of the crossroads market held every five days in Da Longhua, which often leads to computer customers for Hau (left). Once a month, he and other rural operators meet with Yangchao (right), the Yi County owner, to share ideas.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

The only place to buy a computer in Da Longhua (population: 12,000) is Gao Hua’s Lenovo store, which sits along a two-lane highway.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

Lenovo's store in Da Longhua. "Apple, they said they want to challenge us, but it is only in first-tier or second-tier cities," says Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanquing. "You cannot find an Apple store in a small city or town. You cannot find Dell or HP."

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

Gao only displays a handful of computers (and no price tags) in his shop. The units are designed for first-time computer owners, with features such as one-button Internet access or agriculture software to assist farmers.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

In markets like Yi County (population: 550,000), a 90-minute drive southwest of Beijing, Lenovo takes a different approach than in Beijing: one store, in the heart of the business district.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

In Yi County, Lenovo advertises with a prominent billboard at a busy intersection. In more remote areas, it paints its Chinese symbol on the sides of houses and small businesses.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

In Zhongguancun, the northwestern area of Beijing known as the Silicon Valley of China, Lenovo is impossible to miss. On the main thoroughfare, ads for its PCs, laptops, tablets, and smartphones play on this Times Square-size screen.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

Lenovo is a source of national pride, one of the first Chinese companies to go global, thanks to its 2005 acquisition of IBM's PC division. Some stores are required to play up the company’s Chinese roots. This display outside a Beijing store includes an Olympic torch from the 2008 Summer Games, created by Lenovo’s design team.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

Lenovo’s strategy at the electronics malls in the Zhongguancun area of Beijing is market saturation. It has 100 stores in this one shopping district. Some, like the one on the left, target consumers, while others, like the ThinkPad branch, go after small-business owners.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

A Beijing display (right) of Lenovo’s new tablets. The company launched three this year alone, including models for consumers and professionals.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

Lunch hour on Lenovo’s Beijing campus. The 1,000 or so employees from the company’s adjacent factory fill a huge, bustling cafeteria, where they use a lunch allowance for meals. (The cucumber smoothie and noodles go fast.)

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

The proximity of the assembly line, tucked within a complex of buildings, gives managers easy access to the manufacturing process and the automated warehouse.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

Lenovo’s spacious Beijing offices could easily be confused with those at the company’s location in Research Triangle Park. One difference: the huge number of twentysomething employees in Beijing make it feel like a college campus.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

In September, Lenovo announced plans to expand in Beijing. It grabbed the last parcel of land in Z-Park, a major high-tech area shown in this model. In the near corner, Lenovo plans to build offices for as many as 10,000 employees, more than twice as many as it now has at headquarters.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

The government made the initial investment to launch the company and still owns 36% of its parent, Legend Holdings. But executives insist the government has been hands-off from the beginning and remains that way.

Back to the article: In Hypergrowth China, Lenovo Is Apple And Starbucks Combined

Lenovo: The Apple Of China… And Then Some

Lenovo may be unfamiliar to most American consumers, but in China the computer maker is a household brand, as well known and beloved as Apple is here. Maybe more so. Lenovo is ubiquitous in its homeland, with more than 15,000 stores in cities and even the smallest villages. That's almost as many locations as Starbucks has worldwide, nearly twice as many locations as Walmart and roughly 14,700 more stores than Apple has.

Add New Comment

0 Comments