China’s Trans­sion phones out­sell Sam­sung in Africa

China Daily (Canada) - - BUSINESS - By MASI in Bei­jing and PANZHONGMING in Nairobi, Kenya

Shen­zhen firm’s af­ford­able de­vices prove pop­u­lar, dom­i­nate mar­ket

Trans­sion Hold­ings Ltd, a Shen­zhen-based smart­phone maker fewChi­nese have heard of, is se­cur­ing the jewel in the crown of the mo­bile world — the African con­ti­nent, one of the most promis­ing mo­bile are­nas in the world.

Trans­sion has grabbed 40 per­cent of the African mar­ket, out­com­pet­ing much big­ger op­po­nents like Sam­sung Elec­tron­ics Co Ltd and Huawei Tech­nolo­gies Co Ltd.

Tecno and itel, two brands owned by Trans­sion, took the third and first spot in the African mo­bile mar­ket in the third quar­ter of 2016, re­spec­tively, data from tech­nol­ogy con­sul­tancy Coun­ter­pointTech­nol­ogy Mar­ket Re­search showed.

In the first half of 2016, Trans­sion shipped 32.9 mil­lion hand­sets to over­seas mar­kets. In com­par­i­son, the num­ber for Huawei, the world’s third-largest smart­phone maker, was 25.4 mil­lion units.

Trans­sion was the first Chi­nese smart­phone ven­dor to ex­plore the African mar­ket. It also built the world’s first smart­phone plant in the con­ti­nent. Its suc­cess high­lights how lit­tle-known Chi­nese firms are con­quer­ing over­seas mar­kets by lever­ag­ing China’s so­phis­ti­cated man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pac­ity and their ex­pe­ri­ence to fight for sur­vival in the do­mes­tic mar­ket.

StephenHa, gen­eral man­ager ofTecno, said: “We started to zero-in on the African mar­ket as early as 2008 af­ter the com­pe­ti­tion in­ten­si­fied in China.”

That was a time when the con­ti­nent was al­most for­got­ten by most big in­ter­na­tional brands. The lack of com­pet­i­tive lo­cal play­ers also leaves a gap in the mar­ket for Trans­sion to fill.

The com­pany quickly gained pop­u­lar­ity through its dual-SIM smart­phones.

Ha said: “We no­ticed lo­cal con­sumers wanted to have two SIM cards, but most of them could not af­ford two hand­sets.”

Jessie Ding, a Shang­haibased smart­phone an­a­lyst at con­sul­tancy Canalys, said what re­ally helped Trans­sion se­cure dom­i­nance was its ef­forts to stay lo­cal in Africa and the man­age­ment team’s abun­dant ex­pe­ri­ence in over­seas mar­kets.

Zhu Zhao­jiang, founder and CEO of Trans­sion, has been in the smart­phone in­dus­try for nearly two decades. Be­fore set­ting up Trans­sion, he headed up the over­seas busi­ness for a do­mes­tic firm and had trav­eled to more than 90 coun­tries to ex­plore op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Ding said: “Such ex­pe­ri­ence gives Trans­sion an ad­van­tage in deal­ing with Africa’s highly frag­mented re­tailer land­scape. The team knows what lo­cal busi­ness­men want and how to build trust.”

In­stead of re­ly­ing on tele­coms car­ri­ers to sell hand­sets, Trans­sion set up its own re­tail­ing net­work in more than 30 African coun­tries. Ab­di­rah­man Mo­hammed, a phone dealer based in­Nairobi, Kenya, is one of them.

Mo­hammed said: “Trans­sion phones come in many va­ri­eties, with three brands cov­er­ing the low, mid­dle and high-end­mar­kets. Tecno is one of the best sellers in my store.” He sells 70 to 100Tec­no­phones ev­ery month and earn roughly $5 per phone.

To build up its rep­u­ta­tion, Trans­sion has car­ried out an ag­gres­sive ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign rarely seen in the Africa mar­ket. The strat­egy also in­creased lo­cal re­tail­ers’ re­liance on Trans­sion, be­cause in this way, they don’t need to spend much on ad­ver­tis­ing.

In 2011, Trans­sion set up a smart­phone plant in Ethiopia, the first one in the African con­ti­nent, to help speed up prod­uct de­liv­ery and lower costs. Now it is work­ing on a new plant in Nige­ria.

MichaelWandey, the ad­min­is­tra­tor of a pub­lish­ing com­pany in Kenya, said his Tecno smart­phone has the same fea­tures as other brands but is much cheaper.

“Its bat­tery strength is very im­pres­sive. I also like its clear cam­era. Tecno will also be the top choice for my next hand­set,” Michael said.

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