‘Not all China made phones are bad’
Chinese original equipment manufacturer (OEM) Konka telecoms recently launched some of its mobile phone series into the Nigerian market in a bid to deepen competition in the mobile phone market. In this interview with ADEYEMI ADEPETUN, Konka Sales Manager for Africa, Evangelous Hsieh, denies claims that China made phones are bad. He also spoke about the firm’s plans for Nigeria.
Why did it take this long for Konka to come into the Nigerian mobile phone market compared to other manufacturers?
China is very far from Nigeria and it took us a while because our strategy in konka before was to be a domestic market player but because now we have saturated that market very well and our company share has grown enormously, we are now expanding by going oversees to move our business forward and bring good products to Nigeria.
Apart from the population in Nigeria, what other attractions drove konka’s decision to come into the country?
We have gotten so much love and acceptance from Nigerian people. People are really buying our products because they appreciate new quality products. Also, Nigeria is one of, if not the richest country in Africa so there is the ability to buy devices. Nigerians are open to new technology if it is well marketed and of good quality. Another reason is that Nigeria is a great channel to penetrate into the whole of West Africa, once a phone is doing well here; it is likely to do well in other West African countries.
Does Konka have any specific strategies different from those explored by other OEMs that have come into Nigeria?
OEMs manufacture other brands; they do not have to sell their brand so they don’t need to care about brand image or reputation. All they do is manufacture and sell. But for us, it’s different because we are manufacturing and selling our own brand and if we produce poor quality, we would be hurting our brand and ourselves. Manufacturing your own brand means that you will be more serious with it and committed to it and thinking about doing the best for yourself and your brand.
There is a common belief that Chinese manufacturers produce substandard phones for sale in African countries. What would you say about this?
I don’t know about that notion or belief but I will tell you why Konka will not do this. We are doing the same in the Chinese market, it is totally meaningless to go and look for another cheaper supplier to pay less to supply goods for use in only one region. We do not do that; the phones sold in Nigeria are the exact same ones being sold in China. It would be easier for quality control as well. Not all China-made phones are bad.
Looking at the largeness of this market, are you note considering establishing a manufacturing plant here?
The first plans we made and followed through was to first come down here to get to know the Nigerian people, cultures, manner and the way business is run in the country. We started selling phones from China to test the waters. We don’t want to do something that would not last and just crumble in a short time, we would like to take our time to think things through properly and get it right.
To build are manufacturing plant and factory, you have to figure out how many people are going to work there, where is the capacity for this factory, how much demand does the product have and all that. You can’t just build a factory here because you sold 1 thousand phones and then there is no high demand for your product so we can know how big the plant should be.
In percentage, how much market share are you expecting to get within one year of coming into the Nigerian mobile market?
We are really not interested in huge numbers; all we want to see is that there is a steady gradual growth. So if in one year we have five per cent and the next year we get seven per cent and keep growing, that is good enough for us.
Have you tried to find out about the grey market activities in Nigeria? What are your strategies to combat people faking your products?
Working with Mansales as our major distributor in this country, we have a very strict policy on protecting our brand. We have sales people that look out for imitated phones. If we have any problem about people faking our products and spoiling our reputation we will definitely do something about it. We will report to the authorities, the media and tell people how to distinguish features and specifications.
How will your brand cope with the likes of Samsung, Tecno, Infinix, Huawei, which are dominant player in the market already?
We are all in the same circle in china so we know who they are and what they are doing. So we know what they are bringing from China to Nigeria. We are in the same industry so it is like you are playing with your classmates. Konka is larger than most of these other Chinese companies so we produce better quality and more advanced technology.