BlackBerry leans on cybersecurity expertise to grow business in HK

BlackBerry, the erstwhile smartphone maker, is all set to grow its business in Hong Kong as a pure software company in 2018, making the city as base of its operations in North Asia, which includes China and Taiwan.

“A key thing for us is for people to understand the transformation that we have made from being a hardware company to software company, which we have done in the past two and half years,” Carl Wiese, BlackBerry’s president, global sales and services told Computerworld Hong Kong.

BlackBerry has completely exited the device business last September, with its financial structure becoming “dramatically stronger”, according to Wiese, with the company registering a growth of nearly 30% last quarter.

Push towards Asia

After focusing in their comeback efforts in North America and Western Europe in the past couple of years, BlackBerry has been gearing up to grow their business in the Asia Pacific.

“We certainly want to have some geographical diversity we want to expand footprint in Asia and to grow our market in the application space. It is a journey and we have some work to do. When you enter a market, you need partners because you do not the arms and legs you need and it takes time to build that ecosystem,” Wiese said.

In the past year, BlackBerry has been putting more resources locally by hiring people and adding ISV partners into its fold.

“Globally, we have about 100 ISV partners in our marketplace. In addition, we let our own customers build their own applications on our platform. We now have about 4,000 applications that our customers have built. Our partners are helping them develop that software,” he added.

In Hong Kong, BlackBerry has its sights fixed on the financial and government sectors – two verticals where BlackBerry is well established.

“If you look at where we enter a market, our two core anchors are always financial services and Central government. And so whether it is Hong Kong or anywhere else, we will start there because we are very well known in those two markets. Also because companies in these sectors are very large and very complex, we typically do quite well in these markets. HSBC is a flagship customer of ours and we hope to continue to expand that relationship. I am not sure we have penetrated the government market yet, but that is not unusual because it takes multiple years of purchasing cycles to get in,” Wiese said.

Beyond these two industry sectors, BlackBerry is eyeing companies that have growing mobile footprint.

Inroads into professional services and cybersecurity consulting

Two years ago, BlackBerry created its lucrative professional services business which basically aims to help companies design and deploy the BlackBerry products that they have purchased.

“But now we have gotten into cybersecurity from a professional services business. And that has been a very lucrative business for us as well, which has been doubling year on year. It is growing very rapidly. That would be around penetration testing, code scanning, and forensics. Where there has been a breach, they will call us in to understand where the breach came from, how they got in, what they do. And so that whole area of cybersecurity consulting, we are in that business as well,” said Wiese.