How Tencent’s tech helps improve people’s lives

Throughout much of Asia, Tencent’s tech is an important part of life for many people. This Chinese conglomerate has been named as the continent’s most valuable company and is behind the popular multi-purpose apps WeChat and QQ. It also has a gaming division, music and video streaming services and much more. In short, anyone who likes socialising with their friends, playing games, listening to the latest hits or watching TV probably uses its products.

Currently, Tencent is pursuing a global growth strategy and is expanding its European presence from its base in Amsterdam. Like many multinationals headquartered here, it was attracted to the city’s convenient location, skilled workforce and high quality of life, says Jingsi He, Tencent Europe’s head of finance. And though the company certainly has impressive aims and ambitions, its innovations and growth are driven by a simple goal: improving people’s lives.

Jingsi He, the head of finance at Tencent's Amsterdam office

More than two decades of astronomical growth

Much like other pioneering tech companies, Tencent started out small and focused on social media and networking in its early years. But, like a snowball rolling downhill, it quickly picked up speed and began expanding.

“First, we launched the social networking portal QQ and then slowly developed into a bigger social media company,” says Jingsi. “Then we expanded into gaming, media and developing apps for smartphones and payments. Recently, Tencent has entered into the cloud business and AI technology. And now I think you can call it a conglomerate with a big business and investment portfolio.”

Tencent was only founded in 1998, so its rise has been incredibly swift. And, while the Chinese market is enormous, it’s long been known that continued growth requires a global approach. “A few years ago, the company decided it was time to explore the world,” explains Jingsi. “Now we have business activities in the US, Singapore, Japan, Korea and some Southeast Asian countries. But Europe is a new territory.”

Tencent building Shenzhen
Tencent's global headquarters in Shenzhen, China

When it came to choosing a location, why did the Dutch capital triumph over other European cities, such as London and Berlin? “Because Amsterdam and the Netherlands have a unique geographical location, it's a really central point in Europe for wherever you want to go,” says Jingsi. “And it's a very international place with very good business infrastructure. On top of that, the language is quite convenient here; you can just use English, which is helpful for foreign companies. The Dutch business system and tax system also make it a good place for setting up international or regional headquarters.”

Jingsi says he was already a convert to the Dutch way of life when he joined Tencent, having previously lived in the Netherlands while a student. The country – along with its largest city – has earned a place in his heart over the years. “I think the Netherlands in general is good, especially the work-life balance,” says Jingsi. “It's not a high-speed running machine, like Tokyo or Hong Kong, or an overly populated, crowded place. It has a good balance and a good vibe.” 

And what motivated Jingsi to join Tencent in 2019 after working for companies like Canon and Huawei? “It was a new business and a new opportunity. So, you need to build up a lot of things, like a new team and a new system and new processes,” he says.

Tencent is pushing through the pandemic

Due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Tencent’s Amsterdam office has taken various precautions to keep employees safe. Employees now work from home, travel has been minimised and meetings are held online to prevent infection. Jingsi says that the tech-savvy nature of the company has minimised disruption, though there are still some challenges that need to be overcome.  

“Our business is basically internet-based and people are used to working remotely via teleconference or videoconference and using different tools to communicate. So, for many team members, it doesn't matter if they are located in the office or they're working from home. However, for some specific departments, such as business development and marketing, they need to meet people and this situation has been tougher for them.”

Nevertheless, the company is finding ways to support consumers. As the internet plays an even larger role in people’s lives as they search for new ways to work, have fun and generally get by during a pandemic that’s changed countless aspects of daily life, Tencent is ready. 

Amsterdam Damrak

Providing the tech needed in an internet-focused world

At first, Tencent’s “expansion mainly happened along with the internet boom in China,” explains Jingsi. With the rise of the internet and digital media, Tencent used its expertise by developing products to facilitate a new, more digitally focused way of life. “No matter what kind of things people need while using the internet – for chatting, for entertaining, for shopping, for travelling, for making bookings – we are involved.” 

Much of this involvement comes from the company’s “mega apps,” which serve many purposes. For instance, WeChat has more than one billion active users every month, but goes far beyond letting people talk with friends. It can be used to shop, run a webstore and pay for goods, amongst other things. In the years ahead, Tencent wants to make its products a must-have for people all over the world, transforming the convenience enjoyed by Chinese users into a global experience. 

Whatever the case, the firm plans to keep developing new products and tech to ensure it can fulfil consumers’ changing demands. “The strategy is to have our business a bit more diversified, so no longer just focused on social media and networking, but other tech-related things. Right now, we are engaged in Tencent Cloud. The demand is there and we have the technology for handling big data. The level of data in China is tremendous. You need to handle billions of transactions in minutes, but that’s what Tencent is good at.”

To put it succinctly, Tencent has big ambitions, a hunger to grow and the courage to innovate. And remarkably, these desires are all rooted in its modest goal of helping to make life a little better for everyone it can.

Read more about Amsterdam’s tech sector