China’s Realme eyes five-fold shipment growth in 2020 as it enters Middle East market

The Shenzhen-headquartered company expects the Middle East region to contribute up to 15 per cent of its overall revenue in the next few years

China’s smartphone manufacturer Realme is aiming for a five-fold year-on-year growth in its shipment volumes this year as it enters the Middle East market.

The smartphone-maker, which sold more than 25 million devices globally in 2019, will also introduce an affordable 5G phone to the region upon its local launch.

"The Middle East launch will be a major driver of growth… significantly adding to our shipments and market share," Josef Wang, president of Realme Middle East and Africa, told The National, on Monday, after the official announcement of the brand's entry into the region.

“Our shipments grew five times yearly in 2019 and we are expecting the same surge this year.”

Founded in May, 2018, Realme started its operations from India - one of the biggest markets for budget-conscious smartphones. The Shenzhen-headquartered company’s cheapest smartphone starts from $108 (Dh399), with advanced models costing more than $600.

Realme first appeared in China in 2010 as “Oppo Real” – a sub-brand of Oppo Electronics. It separated from Oppo in 2018 to become an independent company.

The firm launched its first 5G smartphone – priced at less than $350 (Dh1,285) – in China last week.

“We will be bringing cheaper 5G-enabled smartphone to the hands of regional consumers. We are investing a lot in R&D to bring down the overall cost of 5G smartphone technology.”

Realme is also “investing aggressively in the Internet of Things and wearable technology in 2020”, Mr Wang added. However, he did not disclose the size of its investment.

Realme expanded to South East Asia, China, Egypt and Western Europe following its successful launch in India. Currently, it is selling its products in 22 countries.

“We used India to gauge the initial feedback of consumers towards our products… it was very positive and that also proved useful in our next launches. We wanted to enter China well-prepared as competition is fierce in our home market,” said Mr Wang.

Realme will set up regional bases in both Cairo and Dubai to focus on Africa and Middle East markets respectively.

“Overall, this region sees an annual sale of more than 23 million smartphones and still there is an appetite for new players,” said Mr Wang.

“Being realistic, we expect this region to contribute up to 15 per cent [of] our overall revenues in the next couple of years.”

Realme started selling its phones in Egypt – its only market in Africa - in January last year.

“Egypt is a young country with huge demand for premium economical smartphones,” said Mr Wang.

Realme, which is planning to enter Eastern Europe and Russia by the end of this year, has more than 1,000 employees in its Cairo office and aims to have “hundreds” of employees in Dubai by the end of this year.

It predicts Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman and Kuwait will be its growth markets in the region.

Realme has rapidly grabbed market share within the highly competitive field of smartphone production, leapfrogging from 47th position in June 2018 to the seventh position by the third quarter of 2019.

The company is also looking to step up sales via e-commerce channels in the region.

“We are in talks with Noon and Amazon and will soon announce partnerships,” said Mr Wang.

Realme, which manufactures most of its smartphones at its facilities in China, India and Indonesia, will open an assembly unit in Bangladesh in the coming months.

The company might "open an assembly facility in some part of Africa, but it will depend on demand and costs”, said Mr Wang.