China’s Transsion phones outsell Samsung in Africa
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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