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Huawei’s side businesses keep it all in the family

SHENZHEN, China – On a hot summer morning at Huawei’s new European-themed campus outside of Shenzhen, a man resembling a younger version of company founder Ren Zhengfei was dressing down two subordinates.

“Use your brain to think!” he scolded, apparently dissatisfied at how they were handling visitors at the lavish facility, which features replicas of European cities and monuments.

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The man was Steven Ren Shulu, 63, the younger brother of Ren Zhengfei, who joined Huawei in 1992 and is now supervisor of the board.

The encounter was witnessed by chance by a Reuters reporter during a visit to the campus in August.

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Huawei may be one of China’s most global companies – with more than 180,000 employees in more than 170 countries running a telecommunications and technology business that generates more than US$100 billion (S$137 billion) annually – but it still has elements of a family firm, with members of Ren’s family playing key roles in web of side businesses, many of which have nothing to do with telecoms.

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Often those side businesses, which range from hotels to food and wine, cater mainly to the Huawei employees and customers.

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