The Behemoth called Tecno Telecoms – a Chinese company, is changing the way Nigerians view its phones and devices that has grown so popular over time.
Chinko is the name known with phones that are seen as inferior or that are not well received. They are usually knock-offs of the bigger brands. Can you remember the likes of Samsungi, SonyErricsion, Nokla, Motopola and the rest?
These were phones built by Chinese phone makers to mimic the big brands that were hot in the market. The phones normally came with extra space for memory card, loud sound, TV and an antennae and were pretty cheap. People who bought them did not flaunt them, but enjoyed using it them tremendously. No warranties were given or expected by those who bought them. It was very risky buying them back then.
The phase of the Chinese phone market in Nigeria has since changed; but not many people seem to notice that credible Chinese brands are making quality phones – Some folks are not even ready to give them a chance.
Credible Chinese brands
Huawei and ZTE are big Chinese brands that are into major telco equipment supply. These are no small brands. They have been supplying phones to the Nigerian market for a while now. All CDMA companies in Nigeria have sold phones from ZTE and Huawei. These two companies have also supplied Internet modems to Nigerian Telcos and WinMax modems. Globally Huawei and ZTE rank among the first 10 phone makers globally.
A new rising star from a few years ago is a company whose CEO mimics Steve Jobs. The company is also from China, but sells basically to the Chinese market at the moment. XIAOMI. It has become a hot competitor for the real Steve Jobs Apple iPhone in China. There are more than 400 other not so popular names coming out of China that are making phones and people are buying in numbers. Have you ever heard of Oppo?
Recently, Huawei went into the manufacturing of high-end phones, with Huawei selling a large volume of the popular Huawei IDEOS in Kenya. In Africa, they have a partnership with Microsoft to launch the Huawei Microsoft Phone4Afrika – the Ascent Windows Phone 8 W1.
But there’s an underdog that has been selling lots of phones that are either java or android based; phones you may have seen on the streets in Lagos and some other parts of Nigeria a lot. The name of the company is Tecno Telecoms.
Aha! My Dad once described to me a Tecno phone he would like to get. I couldn’t get it well as I wasn’t familiar with the brand back then. At that time, the Tecno phones were already hot in the market because they were feature phones that was easy on the pocket, durable, well designed and had extra cool features. Tecno has sold lots of its feature phones without much above the line marketing when it began. But they were able to appeal to the marketers and dealers at Computer Village – Nigeria’s own Silicon Valley – a market place where most Lagos folks (and even ‘out of towners’) get their phones and computer accessories.
But Tecno did not stop at feature phones. They have made a foray into Android phones. The first time I came in contact with an Android Tecno phone was the Tecno N3. It was based on the Gingerbread version of Android (2.3.5) and had preloaded apps from the facebook app to the cool Spinlet music app. I do not have a number of the phones that was sold, but it was rumoured that they sold over 30,000 units in just 1 month alone in Nigeria.
Tecno did not stop at the N3. They have since created more phones running on Android that keep appealing to the Nigerian market. People are beginning to take note of Tecno and no longer refer to them as Chinko phones.
I came across a few tweets earlier this week where some of the techies in Nigeria have started to believe in Tecno. Tecno in my opinion listened. They continue to make affordable phones that were smart for their existing loyal market – the low-end consumers, worked on the feedback and complaints from the consumers & marketers and have constantly built on the feedback and made their products better and better; and in turn the word on the reliability spread from one mouth to another.
After the Tecno N3, they came out with the Tecno P3. If you look at the Tecno N3 and P3 from afar, you are most definitely going to say it is the same phone. A closer look and examining of the features is going to let you see the differences. The P3 packs more power than the N3 and many of the defects on the N3 were improved upon.
As Tecno captured the low-end spectrum of the android market, they recently introduced the Tecno Phantom A, F7 (Read story here), which is their high-end device. A 5″ Android Jelly Bean phone that costs about N35,000 in the market. The phone got many heads turning and people started going out in droves to buy it. I was at the launch of the Tecno F7 and had a brief moment with the unit on display.
The phone feels premium and the screen responds pretty well to touch. I also like the fact that the version of Android on the phone is not heavily skinned and customised like the ones on Samsung, LG, Sony and HTC phones.
What is responsible for the growth of Tecno?
In a market that has been dominated by Nokia, Samsung and BlackBerry, Tecno came in from the feature phone path, tested and proved that people want what they were offering. They targeted Africa as the only continent they were going to sell to. They have been selling in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya.
Tecno did not come out with any fanfare like many new businesses coming into Nigeria would. No Twitter and Facebook presence. One couldn’t even find much about them on the Internet when they first debuted. But their phones were being sold and found their way into the hands of people on the street. Distribution channel was one of the reasons mobile phone companies moved a lot of volumes. Apple sells through mobile Telco providers, Samsung does the same. Samsung also sells through its shops and dealers. Nokia has a well integrated channel of distribution too.
From the information I gathered, before Tecno went into the market, they sent some of their team members to Computer Village at Ikeja. They did the foot work, found those who were at the helm of affairs – the people who sell phones in wholesale and make it available to end users and those that are resellers. They partnered with these ones and were able to push many of their phones into the market. The phones were not just available in Lagos, but found their way to other cities.
I remember two years ago when I used to move large volume of phones from Lagos to Warri. Those phones were mostly Nokia phones, supplied by Nokia to its dealers/resellers via Redington. Redington is a distributor for Nokia phones in Nigeria. This was one of the distribution channels that made Nokia a success in Nigeria. We picked up Samsung phones from a different dealer at computer village on each trip before proceeding to Warri.
Nokia, Samsung and BlackBerry were not the only phones that were being moved to Warri by us. There were the Chinko, China branded phones too. I met this big time dealer in the heart of computer village. While we were collecting our orders, I would see other resellers coming in by the numbers for their orders in great quantity.
Market exists only when there is a demand and a product. If people were not buying the Chinko phones, the resellers won’t be queueing up to buy them up.
It is this kind of big time dealers that Tecno went to pally with. I am sure Tecno gave them very good deals and parleyed with them. This, I suspect, is one of the reason why Tecno was able to sell so much phones when they started with little fan fare that wasn’t visible to us.
Tecno wasn’t the only one that has tried to enter the Nigerian market in the past. There was ZED mobile.
What happened to ZEDD Mobile?
ZEDD mobile was in Nigeria with fanfare (http://mobility.com.ng/zedd-mobile-launches-in-nigeria/) just as Tecno came too. But where is ZEDD Mobile today? ZED failed in the same market where Tecno is succeeding.
Tecno isn’t the only one in this game. There is Infinix now. I can tell you other people are going to try to join in too.
Tecno recently launched the mid-range Tecno Fhantom A last month, a 5″ phone running Android 4.2. The phone has been catching the interest of folks who have never imagined they can ever use a Tecno phone. Samsung, Huawei and Nokia have a new competitor now. First time users of Android who do not have enough cash to fork out can begin to think of a very good phone running a current OS–the Tecno F7.
It will be interesting to see how much people are going to receive the F7. I am expecting a unit to be sent to me for review. I promise you a detailed review as soon as I get the review unit sent to me.
They Keep Soaring
When they started, they were not doing any above the line marketing and were not heavy on social media. Things have since changed. They have become agresive on Facebook and Twitter and growing fan base. They have partnerships with Telcos [MTN, Airtel and Etisalat], phone dealers [SLOT] and whole sale retailers. Advert of Tecno phones can be seen on billboards, newspapers, BRT buses and flyers.
Tecno means business as you can see. You are going to be carrying one of their phones pretty soon I am sure. Unlike the Chinko phones [Motopola, Samsungi and Nokla], you can fix the phone when it is broken from a Tecno Service Centre and enjoy warranty that should keep your mind at rest.
Tecno isn’t stopping at phones. I saw a Tecno tablet in the wild recently. Tecno is no push over and they have shown it. It is time for the BlackBerrys, Nokia and the Samsungs to watch their backs, because Tecno is here!