Boukali Mounir is the Director, Brands and Marketing, Tecno Telecoms. He spoke with Emma Okonji on the future and gains of smart phones, as well as Tecno's vision to populate smartphones in the Nigerian and African telecoms markets. Excerpts:
How is the Tecno brand doing in Nigerian telecoms market?
The Tecno brand in Nigeria is doing very well because it is growing fast and it is the fastest growing telecoms brand in the country's market and in the African market.
We have a lot of customers and more people are buying and using Tecno phones on a daily basis.
What do you think propelled this growth rate in Nigeria and the rest of Africa?
Our high growth rate is indisputable because every year our sales volume increased in Nigeria and other African countries where we have registered our presence. In 2011, we sold over 20 million phones in the African market alone and this number increased in 2012. The reason for the high growth rate is in the features embedded in our phones. The phones come with simple, but yet sophisticated features that attract customers and again the phones come very cheap in the market.
Our aggressive marketing strategies must have added to the high growth rate. We advertise heavily on radio, television and in the newspapers.
Based on your market growth, what plans do you have for the Nigerian market?
Our plan for the Nigerian market is to step up our production and come up with more smartphones for Nigerians in the next few months. We want Nigerians to enjoy quality smart phones at cheaper prices. We are collaborating with Etisalat to sell our smart phones in Nigeria, which will be launched soon.
Tecno will be launching its latest version of Android 4.0 Smartphones, called the Tecno Q1 into the Nigerian market.
The Tecno Q1 is the fifth in the series of its smartphones, and it comes as a dual SIM capability as is the case with all Tecno smartphones. The device is tailored towards young individuals striving to stay connected to their network of friends through social media like Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Instagram and many more. Fitted with essential applications in a sleek modern design, the Tecno Q1 is a highly efficient and communication tool for better performance for active users who simply want more out of life. The stylish phone also allows for instant communication with contacts across the globe on WhatsApp and Skype.
Going by its growth rate, do see smartphones overtaking the conventional phones in the next few years?
If we take a look at the trend in the African, European and American markets, we will discover a paradigm shift in the purchase and usage of mobile phones. Consumers are fast shifting from the traditional phones to smartphones because of the new style of business and new lifestyle of the people, where people work online and have access to their offices and business partners while on the move, and the smartphone is what does the magic. So smartphones are today, very useful to the consumers because of the features that are embedded in it.
The smartphone is different from the traditional mobile phones, because it combines the features of Personal Digital Assistant devices (PDAs), and that of a computer, such as the ability to send and receive e-mail and edit office documents, based on the in-built software.
In the beginning, there were cell phones and PDA devices. The cell phones, which are also known as mobile phones, were used mainly for making calls, while PDA devices were used as personal and portable organisers. The PDA could store contact info and the 'to-do list', and could be synchronised with the computer.
Eventually, PDAs gained wireless connectivity and were able to send and receive e-mail, while the cell phones gained messaging capabilities. But with the emergence of smartphone, it combined the features of a PDA and that of the computer and embedded them in a mobile phone. The combination of the technologies in PDAs and Computers that are now embedded in a single mobile device is what transformed into today's smartphones, thus enabling the new device called smartphone, to perform more functions than the traditional cell phones. So to answer your question, I will say that smartphone is already taking over the phone business in all markets and in few years' time, the smartphone will take over the mobile phone market. In Tecno, for instance, we have a slogan that drives people in their work places, which is "Be Smart, Be Yourself with Tecno smartphone." The smartphone is the future phone for African mobile phone consumers. Very soon nobody will be seen carrying the traditional mobile phone, as they will be carrying smartphones and Tecno has come up with different range of smartphones that are affordable and durable.
What segment of the market audience does Tecno smartphone address?
We are targeting every segment of the market audience, which include the low, middle and high end users of mobile phones. We have smartphones that will suit the lifestyle and business of these categories of people and our smartphones come relatively cheap.
How will smartphone help boost Mobile Number Portability in the country?
Mobile Number Portability (MNP) encourages the use of a single mobile phone that has all the modern features to synchronise with the technology of MNP. It is all about the use of a single SIM card to port from one network to another, while still retaining the original number in the SIM. What this means is that the phone that will be used for porting must come with enabling features that are embedded in today's smartphones. So smartphones will definitely boost MNP in any telecoms market.
Tecno is known for producing mobile phones with up to two, three and four SIM card slots. With the launch of Mobile Number Portability, do you foresee a decline in the sales of your smartphones that have three and four SIM card slots?
You see, technology is evolving. Before the launch of Mobile Number Portability (MNP), Nigerians have great need for a single mobile phone that has slots for several SIM cards, and this was as a result of the weak state of the telecoms networks, which degenerated to poor service quality. We came in at that time with a technology that addressed the situation, which is the manufacture of mobile phones with different compartments to accommodate several SIM cards. This was to enable telecoms consumers to carry one mobile phone, instead of caring several phones with different SIM cards. Today, Nigeria has launched MNP, which has to do with the use of a single SIM card in porting to any network of choice.
Apart from the dual, triple and even four SIM cards phones that we manufacture, we also manufacture single SIM card phones. Therefore the launch of MNP will not in anyway, affect our business in mobile phone manufacturing. The truth is that we at Tecno adapt easily with market trend and we have the technology to improve on customers' experience as new technology evolves.
You started with the manufacture of the traditional mobile phones. What motivated you into the smartphone business?
We had good success with the sales of our traditional phones, but today, there is a shift in the consumption of traditional mobile phones to smartphones, based on consumer taste, and like I told you earlier, we adapt easily with the market trend and we see a future in smartphone, hence we were attracted into the smartphone business. One difference we are making in the smartphone market is to make smartphone affordable for the people, without compromising on quality.
Smartphone manufacturers are competing against themselves. What are your marketing strategies to remain relevant in business in the midst of competition?
Out technology that has simplified the use of smartphones is what stands us out even in the midst of competition. Again our selling point is really affordable. We have made smartphones less expensive such that low income earners could even afford smartphones. Our smartphones come with smart features that enables the user gets connected any time, any day.
African market is our main market and we have been able to build the brand in Nigeria and Africa, in just few years.
What is Tecno's vision for the smartphone market?
Our vision is to build on our brand image in order to become the best brand in the African market. Our desire is to flood the Nigerian and African mobile phone markets with Tecno smartphones. Based on this vision, we will be launching the P3 brand of our smartphone in few weeks' time and more brands will follow thereafter. We are partnering with Etisalat for the launch.
How are you addressing the issue of counterfeiting of your products in the market?
For counterfeiting, we are into awareness campaign, trying to educate our customers on how to get genuine Tecno phones in the market. We have created a website where information on genuine Tecno phones could be read on line. It is important that our customers are well informed about our products and we take responsibility in educating them in this area. To avoid counterfeiting, we are using high technology that will make it difficult for people to fake.
What is your advice to a customer that is looking out for a good smartphone?
I will advise such customer to go for Tecno smartphones because they come with high technology, loaded with smart features and they are relatively cheap. People want to stay connected at all times, even when they are on the move, and they need a good smartphone that will help them stay connected and I am saying that the best smartphone for customers is the Tecno smartphone.
How do you manage your after-sales service?
We have after-sales service for all brands of our smartphones. We are partnering with Carl Care Service, which is our technical partner that handles all after-sales service. They have good technicians and engineers who have good technical skills of our products, and they offer the service perfectly.
Some smartphones come with water resistant technology. Do you have plans to come up with such kind of smartphone?
For now, we do not have plans for such phones, but like I said, Tecno adapts easily to market demand and as demand increases, we can device such technology and come up with water resistant smartphones.
Local content development is key to the Nigerian government. When are you going to open a manufacturing and assembling plants in Nigeria?
We have a long term plan to establish a manufacturing plant in Nigeria, and we hope to create jobs through it. We are looking at beginning the process by next year, based on the volume of sales in the Nigerian market.