How EMC Turned Around Its Asia Business

Steve Leonard’s schedule for the next two weeks or so goes like this: Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mumbai, Bangalore, Singapore, London, Paris, London, Singapore, Australia. And for him, that’s not even that unusual—Leonard logs about 30,000 miles a month on airplanes, sleeping on a plane once or twice a week. “That’s part of being in APJ,” he explains with a smile.

“APJ” is shorthand for Asia Pacific and Japan. And Leonard ought to know something about the region. As an executive for EDS, Veritas, Symantec, and, now, EMC, he’s lived there for some nine years. In his eyes, there’s nowhere else to be than what he calls the most exciting, fastest-growing region on earth. As he puts it, “Where else can you be where you’re watching the evolution of, or the transformation of, a country?”

Leonard was named president of Hopkinton, MA-based EMC’s (NYSE:EMC) Asia Pacific & Japan operations two years ago, because, he says, “Joe [CEO Joe Tucci] and the executive leadership team said we’d like to change our trajectory in Asia.” And so far, so good. Last year, EMC’s APJ operations—which span some 17 nations, from India to The Philippines, Korea to New Zealand—enjoyed 24 percent growth over 2006—after just a 6 percent rise the year before that—accounting for about $1.5 billion in business, about 11 percent of the company’s total revenues. “We were the fastest growing part of EMC,” Leonard says. “We came from being the slowest growing part of EMC.” And things didn’t stop there. The first quarter of this year saw another 18 percent surge in revenues over the same period a year earlier, and, says Leonard, “you’ll be reading about Q2.” (The numbers aren’t due until late July, and he can’t talk about them now).

So how did it happen, and what’s in store for the region going forward? I asked these very questions when I sat down with Leonard in a corner of Cafe Fleuri when he was in Boston last Friday—before he embarked on the whirlwind itinerary outlined above.

Not surprisingly, the first question Leonard asked when he took the reins was, “What is the team?” “Some companies say it [APJ] would be a good place for Johnny to go get some experience, which would be the wrong approach,” he says. “Asia is the most complicated and difficult set of markets of anywhere in the world.” It’s a place, he adds, for people who already have lots of experience—the ones, he says, “with the most scars on their back.”

Leonard says his prime goal was to put in place key managers who … Next Page »

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