Since the start of the company in the early 1970’s, Apple has successfully evolved and developed itself as an innovative leader and fierce competitor in the personal technology industry. This now multibillion-dollar corporation is one of the most powerful and influential high tech companies in the world. Beginning with the leadership and vision of co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs, Apple’s fresh perspective on how to develop products with simple, yet intuitive designs have enabled the company to rise from the masses of products with substantial appeal.
Despite the overwhelming success, however, analysts have claimed Apple products are beginning to go “out of fashion” in China, the world’s second-largest economy (et. al Arjun Kharpal). Since 2008, Apple has gradually built up a presence in China, amassing 41 stores in a diverse range of provinces and not just in major urban hubs Beijing and Shanghai. In 2015, the momentum peaked, and China became the biggest driver behind Apple’s biggest growth earnings of $61 billion-- up from $27 billion in 2012 (source here). Consumers flocked to purchase the iPhone as it was a sought-after status symbol that signaled that one was a member of China’s affluent class. However, this year, Apple’s share of the Chinese smartphone market fell and the iPhone didn’t even make it to fourth place in popularity in the country as locals favored domestic brands Huawei, Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi (source here).
These Chinese brands found a way to create smartphones that are just as good as the iPhone, but at a lower cost which has driven consumers away from Apple. Willy Shih, a professor of management practice at Harvard Business School, says, “Too many Chinese consumers feel they can get a good product without buying Apple’s premium priced product” (source here). Revenue for what Apple calls “Greater China” (which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan) has steadily sunk 10 percent year-on-year and brought in sales of $8 billion from the region last quarter, the lowest since September 2014 (Arjun Kharpal).
The late entrepreneur Steve Jobs once said:
“…I found that there were these incredibly great people good at doing certain things, and you couldn’t replace one of these people […] I have spent my work life trying to find and recruit and retain and work with these kind of people. My #1 job here at Apple is to make sure that the top 100 people are A+ players. And everything else will take care of itself” (source here).
China is proving to be Apple’s most difficult market and “the world’s second-largest economy is crucial to Apple’s future- and right now the business is headed in the wrong direction” (Claire Zillman). Which is why, on July 2017, Apple announced that they have recruited Engineering leader Isabel Ge Mahe to take on a new role as the company’s first-ever VP and managing director of the Greater China region, reporting to CEO Tim Cook and COO Jeff Williams (source here). There, she will “provide leadership and coordination across Apple’s China-based team,” according to Apple’s press release (Apple release here).
Previously, Isabel Ge Mahe was recruited back in 2008 by Steve Jobs to lead Apple’s wireless software engineering teams and has been doing so for 9 years. She mainly focused on working on key wireless technologies and overseeing the engineering teams building the company’s Apple Pay, HomeKit and CarPlay products. She has also worked on new iOS features developed specifically with China in mind, “including recently announced iOS 11 features such as QR Code support, SMS fraud prevention and enabling the use of a phone number as an Apple ID” (Apple release here).
Having been listed as 12th in Fortune’s list of the “Most Powerful Women in International Business”, Mahe has the exact type of “leadership and coordination” to help Apple flourish in the Chinese market. “She has dedicated a great deal of her time in recent years to delivering innovation for the benefits of Apple customers in China, and we look forward to making even greater contributions under her leadership,” says Apple CEO Tim Cook (Apple source).
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