The Marketing Manager, Consumer Business, Huawei Technologies Nigeria Limited, Mr. Olaonipekun Okunowo, in this interview with SIMON EJEMBI, highlights efforts the company is making to encourage more Nigerians to shift from feature phones to smartphones
Do you think Nigerians are maximising the use of their mobile phones?
I will say no, but when we compare Nigeria to other countries like South Africa, it is better. Nigeria has a growing middle class and young persons who understand the use of their digital devices better than their counterparts in many African countries. Nigeria is always breaking records. They are more inclined to trends, but all the same, not so many are making the most use of their smartphones. There are still many more people using feature phones than smartphones in the country. Some basically use their smartphones to check Facebook statuses. They don’t use it like a mini-computer. There are just many things to do on a smartphone.
What role is your company playing to change the status quo?
That is why we are focusing on smartphone production. We want to make our partners trust our products. We are setting an agenda whereby our consumers can use their Huawei smartphones to do virtually everything, using our array of software. During the last election, many people came to us that they wanted us to make customised feature phones that could cost between N2, 000 and N3, 000 for the purpose of the elections. We rejected their proposals because that was not the purpose for which we are here. The world is shifting to smartphones and wearables, and that is why we are setting the agenda for consumers to change their perspectives. It is not about making profits alone; it is about making the right decision and telling the people to follow us. We have seen the future and we want people to let us take them there.
Is that why you are focusing on the consumers in its business approach now?
Huawei Technologies Nigeria Limited entered the Nigerian market in 2000 during the time of the country’s telecommunications industry revolution. That was when we had a partnership with the Nigeria Telecommunications Limited and since then, the business has been in the country. We came basically to Nigeria as an ICT company, offering ICT infrastructure and backbone services to telcos. Coming to Nigeria is part of inspiring and making the world a global village. In those days, we focused more on business-to-business services, providing solutions for enterprises in banking, education, aviation and others that need technological backbone.
Though we have been a key phone and other devices manufacturer all over the world, in 2013, we shifted to create a focus. We shifted to make the consumers a major priority in our business. This means we opted to start thinking like the consumers in terms of what they want. From manufacturing feature phones for the consumers, we shifted to manufacturing 95 per cent smartphones, being where the world is heading to right now in terms of mobile devices. In terms of B2C, this is where we come in and now, the company is number three in smartphone production globally.
When we talk of CDMAs, intercellular, and dongles, among others, those were enhancement services that we offered to companies like NITEL in those days. But we have been in the consumer market since we started; it is just that we have not been fully involved in marketing. Therefore, I will not say we are coming late, but I will say we have not been prominent as a key brand in the consumer space before now. In B2B, you don’t need to shout, you don’t need to go to your clients, you will still make your money because you know your clients already and you are okay with that. But in B2C, the game is different.
Are you implying that price is going to be a key factor for competition in the Nigerian consumer tech space?
Yes. If I want to rate the industry, I will say in terms of making premium products, compared with what is in the market, we are even better than some who sell their products at higher prices. We want a consumer to pick up a phone by a brand in the market and compare it with Huawei. They will find out that they have actually been spending more on a product that is even less inferior to the Huawei brand.
Are you saying Nigerian consumers will get same value like other international consumers?
Of course, yes. What you find in Nigeria is the same we are offering in other countries of the world, including the United States and European markets. It is the same standard. If you pick up your phone in Nigeria, for instance, and travel to France, you will still be able to make use of the same features. Don’t forget that we are the leader in ICT globally and that most of the top tech firms in the world are Huawei’s clients. And beyond smartphones, we also have tablets and this year, we unveiled a wearable product, TalkBand 2. When it was unveiled at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, it was adjudged the best of all wearables that were introduced at the event. In the next few months, we are going to have it in Nigeria, but currently, we have the TalkBand 1. We have up to seven tablet types in the market, so there are diverse products from the company that consumers can choose from.
What is the response of the Nigerian consumers so far?
As stiff as the competition is, we have over five per cent market share in Nigeria in less than one year. Apart from Lagos, which is the real smartphone market in the country, we are also in Abuja, and now, there is a positive feedback from the North and other parts of the South-West. So, we are glad that people recognise how premium our products are.
Wearable represents a shift in the tech world, what is its future in the Nigerian market?
It is going to take between five and seven years for Nigerians to have a proper perspective of wearable devices. It seems to be a new fashion. Don’t forget that there is always a shift in technology. For instance, the people are moving from tablets to larger screen smartphones that will do everything. Because they are mobile and people want to do many things on their devices anywhere they are, they opt for these devices. The wearable we have is like a wristwatch that functions like a health guide, bluetooth device and as a weather forecaster. One of the key things about the wearable is to make it replace a wristwatch.
How can SMEs maximise the use of smartphones?
Something people need to know is that their smartphones are even better than their laptops. With just N200 mobile data, an SME operator or an entrepreneur can go to Google and get information on their businesses. From there, you can see opportunities in other international markets that you can bring to the Nigerian landscape. Your smartphone is a connection to bigger opportunities. You can expand horizon. You can make payments, send and receive emails and other information.
What impacts has Huawei made in the lives of Nigerians so far?
We train the only company that trains 2,000 engineers every year. We have a little over 2,000 workers in Nigeria and 70 per cent of them are Nigerians. We have entrepreneurs working with us. We have big businesses in Nigeria working with us. There are Nigerian engineers trained by us who are now also expatriates in other countries. We have scholarship schemes for students in 10 Federal Government universities. We also have a programme with the Niger Delta region where we take over 200 Niger Delta indigenes to countries like Malaysia to be trained on ICT. They come back to Nigeria and set up their own ICT firms; some even become our business partners. Those who write the company’s examination and excel are also employed by the company. This shows we have a huge investment in the country.
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