Africa's biggest smartphone seller turns to Middle East for growth

Chinese Tecno Mobile plans to spend Dh2m on marketing and branding in 2019

Jack Long, UAE country manager of Tecno Mobile says the UAE presents a huge opportunity for growth with its diverse population. Satish Kumar / For the National 
Jack Long, UAE country manager of Tecno Mobile says the UAE presents a huge opportunity for growth with its diverse population. Satish Kumar / For the National 

Tecno Mobile, the biggest smartphone seller in Africa, is aiming to increase its sales in the Middle East by 80 per cent this year as the Chinese manufacturer looks to compete with Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi in the budget-friendly tier.

To build brand awareness, Tecno Mobile will spend Dh2 million on marketing in the Middle East in 2019, Jack Long, Tecno Mobile’s Middle East head, told The National.

“People should start recognising us in the region," said Mr Jack. "Our aim is to feature among the top five smartphone brands – in terms of market share – in the Middle East in the next couple of years.”

The company spends about a fifth of its revenues in emerging markets, and "the UAE is one of our priorities", he said.

Tecno Mobile started selling its products in the Middle East only two years ago, and have gained the most traction in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Oman so far.

“The UAE is an entirely different market from a business point of view. It is home to many foreigners from countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, significantly adding to our customer base,” said Mr Jack.

Tecno Mobile, which has manufacturing units in China and Ethiopia and an assembly plant in Algeria, does not sell its products in its home country, China. Mr Jack said the world's second biggest economy is saturated with the big players in the smartphone industry, leaving little room for for new brands to grow - but in smaller emerging markets Tecno can grab a meaningful foothold.

“We want to focus on emerging markets such as Africa, South-East Asia and South America and this strategy has worked out very well. We had started selling in Africa in 2006 and currently we rule the market with almost 40 per cent of the continent’s market share,” said Mr Jack.

While affordability is one reason for Tecno's popularity, Mr Jack said the company has also invested heavily in after-sales service, with nearly 2,000 service centres operating on the continent.

Tecno Mobile, which was established in 2006 as a subsidiary of Shenzhen headquartered manufacturer Transsion Holdings, has nearly 40 employees at its regional headquarters in Dubai.

UAE-based Jumbo Electronics is its Arabian Gulf distributor and their handsets are available in nearly 500 independent shops in the UAE. The company is also planning to open a store in Dubai in the coming months.

“It would be in Dubai Mall or Mall of Emirates. Very soon we will finalise the location.”

Tecno Mobile's prices range from $50 (Dh184) to $200 for a handset and the company sold more than 47.3 million smartphones in 2017, putting it in ninth place in global market share rankings.

“Analysts are talking about a slowdown in smartphone industry but we see a lot of growth coming. Being a new player in the Middle East, it will be quite easy to increase our market share,” said Mr Jack.

Tecno Mobile is also spending nearly 30 per cent of annual revenues on research and development to stay competitive. "Customers need a good camera, bigger screen and fast processor… we will provide all but at a very subsidised price," said Mr Jack.

Published: March 29, 2019 08:30 AM


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