Gree chairwoman orders all staff to test company’s smartphones

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 12:22am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 12:22am

The head of China’s biggest air-conditioner maker has ordered all of the company’s employees to use its self-developed prototype smartphones in a bid to test their quality.

The decision came after the management of Gree Electric had granted workers a generous 1,000 yuan monthly pay rise as well as a 10,000 yuan year-end bonus.

“What’s wrong with it that we made it mandatory ? Why shouldn’t Gree staff use Gree smartphones? If they don’t have faith in their own product, how will the market endorse that product?”asked Dong Mingzhu, the company’s outspoken chief executive in a meeting with government officials.

The Zhuhai-based white goods powerhouse released its first smartphone model in 2015, before introducing the second generation of the gadget last year, only to see a tepid consumer reception in a market already filled with established rivals including Xiaomi, Huawei and Oppo.

Dong, 62, has tried to promote Gree smartphones in various public appearances over the last two years.

In July last year, she banged a Gree smartphone down in front of other prominent Chinese entrepreneurs at a summit in Beijing, claiming that the gadget will continue working even after falling from a height of two metres.

“I dare to say that our phones are No 1 in the world. Of course, I’m not referring to sales figures, but I can promise consumers that our quality is second to none,” she was quoted as saying at the summit.

In the meeting with her staff, Dong stressed that she wanted company employees to try the handsets first before they went on the market.

“We ought to ensure there is no problem with quality ... we have a long-term vision,” she said.

Technology firms on the mainland are racing to woo Chinese consumers with advanced smartphone designs. Oppo and Vivo, two little-known smartphone companies outside China, have successfully pushed Apple and Samsung aside and emerged last year as the country’s dominant brands. Meanwhile, Xiaomi and Huawei have accumulated a massive fan base in China with aggressive marketing campaigns.

Born into a working-class family, Dong joined Gree in 1990 as a salesperson, rising to chief executive in 2001. She has since transformed Gree from a sleepy domestic brand into a world-leading manufacturer, with 2014 revenue exceeding 140 billion yuan.