Caixin
Apr 21, 2020 07:40 PM
BUSINESS & TECH

Under Competitive Pressure From Huawei in China, Oppo Reshuffles Management Team

In 2019, Oppo was the third-largest smartphone brand in China with a market share of 17.1%, according to industry data tracker IDC.
In 2019, Oppo was the third-largest smartphone brand in China with a market share of 17.1%, according to industry data tracker IDC.

Chinese smartphone brand Oppo on Monday announced that 31-year-old executive Brian Shen will be stepping down, and will be replaced by company veteran Liu Lie.

Shen will give up his current role as president of global marketing due to “personal health reasons,” according to a company statement. He will be replaced by Liu Lie, who will report directly to CEO Tony Chen.

This key personal change comes after Oppo earlier this month promoted Vice President Liu Bo to be president of its China business.

These personnel changes come as Oppo is facing strong competition in its crucial domestic market, where rival Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. has been on an aggressive campaign to gain market share. The latest personnel move also taps Liu Lie to lead Oppo marketing efforts on the Chinese mainland.

On his microblogging account, Shen said in a post Monday that he would be taking a short break. Chen forwarded that post, saying “take a good rest, and (I) hope (you) can return (to Oppo) soon.”

When reached by Caixin, an Oppo spokesperson said it was unclear how long Shen would be gone. “That depends on Shen’s health,” the spokesperson said.

Shen became a company vice president in 2018, five years after he joined Oppo. Of the company’s seven vice presidents, he was among the youngest.

Liu Lie is a company veteran who helped Chen found the smartphone brand back in the early 2000s.

With Liu Lie taking over Oppo marketing, he and Liu Bo will be charged with turning around the company’s sluggish sales in the country. In 2019, Oppo was the third-largest smartphone brand in China with a market share of 17.1%, according to industry data tracker IDC. However, its China shipments fell more than 20% from the previous year to 62.8 million devices.

Oppo’s setbacks have in part been driven by Huawei’s refocus on the domestic market. China’s biggest smartphone-maker has seen its global ambitions undermined by its inclusion last year on a U.S. blacklist that restricted its access to the Google-made Android operating system that its phones use.

Huawei’s aggressiveness in China has eaten into the market shares of some of its rivals, such as Xiaomi Corp, Vivo and Apple Inc., whose China shipments fell by 21.2%, 12.5% and 9.7% respectively in 2019, according to IDC. Meanwhile, Huawei’s shipments grew 33.9% to 140.6 million units.

This year is expected to be tough for smartphone-makers in general due to the coronavirus pandemic, which is set to exacerbate a declining trend in sales over the past few years. Smartphone shipments in China are expected to drop 11.9% in 2020, according to industry consultancy Canalys. Under a worst-case scenario, sales could fall by more than 21%.

Contact reporter Mo Yelin (yelinmo@caixin.com) and editor Michael Bellart (michaelbellart@caixin.com)

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