IT is highly probable that you are reading this article on your mobile phone, using a screen manufactured by Lens Technology.
As the largest supplier of touch sensor glass panels in the world, Lens Technology has occupied more than 50 percent market share on the global mid-end and high-end market for years. Its many users include Apple, Samsung, Huaiwei, OPPO and Vivo.
An Era of Entrepreneurship
In the middle to late 1980s, riding the tide of economic development, a large number of farmers left the countryside and found jobs in cities, forming a new social group of migrant workers. Zhou Qunfei was one of them.
Zhou Qunfei, a CPPCC member and president of Lens Technology.
Zhou hails from a small village in Xiangxiang, Hunan Province. She went to work in Shenzhen at the age of 19, and her first job was to process watch glass. The process was quite simple and she soon mastered all the procedures. Having nothing more to learn at work, Zhou was preparing to resign and look for greener pastures when she was unexpectedly promoted to a higher position of the company. However, as there was no one to teach her the skills required for her new job, she decided to teach herself. Zhou borrowed a book on silkscreen printing from her coworker and taught herself the necessary skills needed. Through the process of learning she learned about new industrial terms, and often burned the midnight oil trying to understand the technical details.
In 1993, Zhou decided to resign and set up her own business. From the beginning, her business grew rapidly. From a family-run outlet of eight people, her empire expanded exponentially to a point where she was employing more than 100, 000 workers. Her business was no longer limited to clock and watch glass manufacturing, but expanded to the field of electronic products. In addition, the company now trades globally. The research and development of Lens Technology has made the company an industry leader, for which it has been selected in the top 500 private enterprises in China for six consecutive years. In the Hurun Institute’s List of Global Self-Made Female Rich in 2018, 48-year-old Zhou ranked the most successful female entrepreneur in the world, with a wealth of RMB 6.15 billion. Speaking about her success, she attributes it to her unyielding spirit and the opportunity offered to her by the era of China’s reform and opening-up. The latter she believes has enabled people like her from poor families to achieve success.
Zhou is not impressed with the titles bestowed on her, such as “the World’s Richest Woman” and “Queen of the Touch Screen.” “I still want to do something that is beneficial to the country, society, and the company. The growth and development of Lens Technology reflects our long-held commitment to innovation,” she said.
Creating a Legacy
In 2001, Lens Technology took the lead in replacing the traditional perspex with glass panels for phones, which increased transparency and wear resistance of mobile phone screens. This innovative technology started a revolution of mobile phone glass in the industry.
Lens Technology product exhibition hall.
In 2006, with the increase of customers and orders, the rented plant capacity of her company in Shenzhen could not meet the ever-growing demand for her products. Following the trend of industrial transfer, Zhou relocated the company to her hometown in Hunan Province. Lens Technology has not only become the major taxpayer in Hunan Province but also nurtured thousands of downstream manufacturers locally.
On the morning of November 4, 2013, General Secretary of the CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping praised the achievements of the company in developing products and expanding the market during his visit to Lens Technology.
Taking Xi’s visit as an opportunity, the company set several strategic targets aimed at reform and innovation: get approval to establish the Hunan Engineering and Technology Research Center of Lens Technology, and have major scientific and technological projects included in the provincial or national plans of science and technology; establish and improve the management system for intellectual property rights, and complete more than 100 patent applications each year; strengthen cooperation and communication with foreign countries; establish a research & development center for robot engineering, and promote the application of automatic production.
In 2015, Lens Technology’s decision to invest in sapphire and 3D curved glass production projects was questioned by the market and opposed by shareholders. In spite of opposition, Zhou went ahead, and the two projects have gone on to bring great rewards for the company.
Zhou knows that innovation and risks always go hand in hand. Recalling the decision she took at the time, she says that it was a forward-looking investment based on her prediction and judgment about future technology and market demand. “Private firms are not only inborn market economy players, but also the new force of economic transformation and upgrading, and the main force of innovation. Innovation is related to the sustainable development of the enterprise and whether it can grow larger and stronger.” Zhou predicts that with the arrival of 5G mobile phones, sapphire and double glass designs will continue to boost the growth of the company.
Lens Technology R&D center.
The innovation of Lens Technology is driven by the demand of its customers. Currently, the company invests more than six percent of its annual revenue in research and development. As of 2018, Lens Technology had acquired licensing of 1,173 patents, including 123 patents in the emerging electronic field, such as 3D glass, sapphire panels and ceramic panels, as well as having 12 patents authorized internationally. Lens Technology ranks first in the industry in terms of the number of patents issued.
“I don’t want my company to be the largest, but I want it to be the most innovative,” said Zhou. In the field of glass application, Lens Technology has extended its production from watch glass to screen glass, and realized innovation in production techniques from 2D, to 2.5D and 3D, and transforms raw materials from ordinary glass to sapphire and ceramic material.
The rapid development of the intelligent industry has further promoted the transformation and upgrading of the company. Since 2016, Lens Technology has been independently researching, developing, and producing industrial robots and intelligent manufacturing equipment, while also working on transforming the traditional production line into an intelligent version. Now, with the use of robots, far fewer industrial staff are required.
“The Chinese economy has entered a new phase of transformation, upgrading and high-quality development, and the private economy is a main driver that can promote the high-quality development of the Chinese economy,” said Zhou.
She said that core technology holds the key to the entire industry, determining the value of the final product and providing essential support for the manufacturing industry. The stable investment of Zhou’s company in research and development of technology has enabled Lens Technology to make headway in using new material and new technologies, presenting new products and advancing automatic production. In addition, research and development guarantees that Lens Technology will continue to improve the quality of its products, increase the value of products, and win customers’ trust. According to Zhou, Lens Technology has also started doing business in the field of wearable equipment, intelligent furnishing, automobiles, and medical devices.
Zhou is as confident of the future today as she was when she started her company. She says continuous innovation is the key to the successful transformation of her company from the traditional manufacturing industry to high-tech industry. Innovation is also the guarantee for Lens Technology to play the leading role in the industry and ensure the high-quality development of the company.