It is likely that when mentioning the name of Transsion, many do not know that it is a Chinese manufacturer of mobile phones, not even in China. But Transsion Holdings Ltd. is not a manufacturer anymore, it is the manufacturer that has managed to sell over 80 million phones worldwide, of which 38% remain in Africa.
The company based in Shenzhen, has achieved the largest share of the African market by passing in front of the largest, and ranked 14th among the 100 favorite brands of African consumers in 2016. Listen and meet the needs of a market Emerging is what has reported these figures, something that seems to be repeated in other continents.
Seeing the opportunity
In 2011, the conference of the African Telecommunications Union (ATU) was held in Nairobi. At that time, almost no Huawei representatives who were there knew that the brand that was conquering Africa was also Chinese. On the other hand, huge billboards of the Asian brand dot the corners of the African continent and its official stores are opened in Addis Ababa and Nairobi.
Transsion, this is the mobile manufacturer that triumphs in Africa with cameras optimized for dark skin tones
Transsion was clear about its strategy almost from the beginning: forgetting completely to compete in the Chinese market, a market with terribly segmented demand and full of fierce rivals, to choose Africa as a single target market. And is that the African continent could not be a good cake in 2005, when the penetration rate of the telephone market was only 6%. However, in 2008, this rate went up to 30% and there was Transsion to listen to its niche.
At that time the only company that had tried to penetrate the African market was Nokia, who thanks also to its peak of the moment, dominated the market share. However, his plan was only to have presence everywhere, so he did not invest too many forces in Africa, launching some low-end phones that he already had standardized, without focusing on the African public specifically.
And is that the African market, unlike markets such as European or American, which are more unified in terms of needs, is much more divided. Each country has different, non-uniform sales systems, and users also have different demands to sue manufacturers.
Double SIM and more shine in the selfies
Transsion applied the basic principle of sales: making the demand of users a business opportunity. Thus, in 2008, it launched its first phone with capacity for dual SIM in Africa, something that in China was no longer a novelty, but in Africa as well as being it, it meant covering an important demand.
And is that due to the situation of the local telecommunications industry, African users counted (and have) several SIM cards, but economically acquire two phones per user was something unfeasible, so they were in the position of having to change constantly the card. This is something that continued years later, specifically a Wireless Intelligence study published in 2012, reported that the average number of SIM cards used by African customers was two per person.
How did Transsion take advantage of this business opportunity? In that it exhausted all his dual SIM phones and the lack of stock until recovering the supply did that the users waited for months to be able to acquire one of their terminals.
In Africa, the average number of SIM cards is two per user, but the economic possibility of acquiring two terminals is very low. This was one of the opportunities that Transsion took advantage of in the continent
Given the success of meeting the demand by listening to users, the company found another need to feed: that of selfies for dark skin. And is that selfies are something almost inherent in the mobile phone, but African users had to deal with a problem in which almost no manufacturer had stopped to think. The front cameras of telephones have difficulty recognizing darker skin tones and, consequently, producing quality images.
Transsion found a way to solve this problem: its smartphone from the Camon series, locates the faces of African users focusing on the teeth and eyes, in addition to the skin tone, to adjust the amount of exposure to light that is needed to get selfies of better quality.
La importancia de la postventa
But dual SIM phones and front cameras for dark skin apart, Transsion has provided another element that has made it take hold in the African market. In addition to maintaining a direct relationship with its official distributors (at the end of the day they are the ones that extend their brand in the market) the company invested a few million to offer customers a powerful after sales service.
Thus, in 2009, its after-sales maintenance service called Carlcare was born, a service that already has more than 1,500 professional establishments spread across Africa, the Middle East and East Asia. But Transsion not only provides service to its own brands, but Calcare also provides maintenance to users of other phone brands and even other types of devices.
Three different brands for all audiences
Currently, Transsion has three different brands that target different user groups: TECNO Mobile, Itel and Infinix. Among these brands, TECNO Mobile is the most important in Africa, with terminals ranging from “feature phone” to smartphones. Itel, for its part, focuses more on the low-end range and the last to arrive, Infinix, is dedicated to high-end smartphones.
Transsion has more than 4,000 employees in Africa, of which a high percentage belong to the assembly factory that was built in Ethiopia to reduce costs and time in the manufacturing process. As we can see, the Chinese company has put Africa in its pocket, but what are its plans now?
A for more emerging markets
The company announced in 2016 an agreement with the soccer team Manchester City FC, whose player, Yaya Touré, is very popular in Africa and whose main shareholders belong to the Arab royal family. This agreement, which is still in force, has further strengthened the image of the company in Africa.
Now the manufacturer, well positioned in Africa both in body and image, and with such an important market share, has touched “ceiling”, because climbing more in the short term is somewhat complex. This is why the need to seek new markets is imminent, and according to their representatives, the next target is India.
But India is not a “pure” market like Africa could be in 2008, but rather the opposite. It is already established as a powerful market, as well as being the cradle of some of the most important component factories. According to Arif Chowdhury, the company’s vice president, “in India people are closer to each other, so the reputation of the brand is of utmost importance, and the quality of a product, good or bad, will be known by the friends and relatives of the user very soon ».
These words indicate that Transsion’s strategy in India will be to replicate the one they carried out in Africa with fruitful results: listening to the user and offering “customized” options to market demand, opting for lower ranges to cover more volume. It seems that the company is willing to fight to gain a foothold in different emerging markets, but yes, without any intention to try it in their country of origin.
Update January 2019: the last report of Canalys on the African mobile market shows movements in the top 5 brands. As of May 2018, Samsung rose as leader with 23% market share, while Transsion fell to second place with 18%.