In this exclusive chat with MobileWorld, Nick Imudia, Regional Director for Nigeria and Central Africa at Alcatel Onetouch, says why the brand’s affordability, design and functionality mean a lot to the consumers…..
How do you view Nigerians mobile phone culture?
Mobile phone is basic communication and work tool for most Nigerians. It is an absolute necessity as people need to communicate and do business on the go. Because it’s a necessity, price becomes a major consideration for the majority of consumers who must have their personal devices even though they may not have so much to spend on it. So, for most Nigerians, price/specification ratio is the number one factor in determining what brand of mobile phone they use. A lot manufacturers have realised this which is what has resulted in the entry of so many brands to the local market.
Of course there is the middle and upper class who will consider the functionality and their status in choosing the device they use but due to poor infrastructure,a lot of them still have entry-level devices as their supporting mobile phones so that they are still connected when one network fails.
Because of Nigeria’s huge population and the opportunities it presents, we are still going to see a lot of brands coming into the market in the near future.
What do you think is new that Nigerians could appreciate especially when it comes to design in your phone line?
From my earlier explanation, you will notice that everyone needs to have a phone but not everyone can afford that particular mobile phone that meets their needs in terms of features and functionality. With Alcatel Onetouch, consumers get products that they actually need to function effectively at affordable price points.
The goal of Alcatel Onetouch is to blend style and functionality into affordability because we know that your phone is not just for communication and work, but it is also an expression of your personality.
So it’s a question of if a consumer can afford the product that shows who they are, and that is where Alcatel OneTouch comes in. That is why we try and give you a stylish design, good specification and with good quality.
Affordability and the mass market go hand in hand. So far how good do you think you have been able to penetrate the market?
Alcatel Onetouch is very new in the country. Alcatel Onetouch started selling on October 1, 2015, which technically means 3 months of sales in the Nigeria. It is not expected that within 3 months of sales, you start controlling the market share in the society. What you want is to get people to start noticing your brand and asking questions about the design, features and functionality. You want to start a conversation after 6 months to 1 year of sales. You want to be a choice, you want people to go to retail, take a look at your products and start a conversation. Maybe you don’t buy it now, but you’ve planted a seed in somebody’s mind and that is where we are.
Nigeria is a key market why did it take Alcatel so long before registering its presence again after a lull?
Although, we took a break from Nigeria, AlcatelOnetouch didn’t leave the mobile industry. In fact it has been very successful in Africa. We have shipped millions of phones into Africa in the past year alone.The brand has been very successful with the telecom operators across Africa and Alcatel Onetouch is the choice for the operators.
It took some time to get back to Nigeria because we wanted to get everything right. It’s almost like capacity building, it’s not enough to have a product, you need to have the right team, you need to have the right logistics, you need to have the right retail and you need to have the right product for Nigeria. Nigeria is a big and peculiar market.
So it took ussometime because they wanted to put all of these together. Now I can saythat everything is in place and you can see us in retail and we are already a choice for consumers again.
Can you explain more on the partnership with Konga, Jumia and Yudala?
What Alcatel One Touch is doing in the E-commerce space is to have a deep partnership with platforms like Konga, Jumia and the Yudala. Deep partnership means that the partner is deeply involved in the end to end marketing of the product; from deciding on what products to range in the country, at what price point and communication strategy.
We work with the partners to understand consumers’ needs and roll out products that meet them. So this is what we’ve done with the partnerships developed for the launch of the Alcatel One Touch Pop Star.
As far as features are concerned, again if you go back to what I said earlier, the ecosystems are roughly designed for everyone. But it is a question of who is able to put the whole package together. These are the logistics, style, design, price, speed to bring into the market and that is where Alcatel Onetouch is making a big difference in the industry.
Still talking about partnership, how close are you with the computer village phone dealers; is there any collaboration because for some time we heard some stories about some brands having issues with phone dealers at the computer village?
You cannot distribute technological products in large volumes without the computer village. For you to reach the rural areas, for you to reach the villages, for you to reach north, south, east, west and central, you need Computer Village, you need the association of dealers and distributors. So I will say that for the low end products you need the computer village because the people you want to sell them to,are not in Lagos alone – you need their reach, which they have developed over the years.
So to answer your question, no I don’t have any issue with Computer village; I think we actually need them to grow the business in addition to development in organized retail, which is the future.
Talking about pricing, how good and how friendly is your price?
I believe that Alcatel Onetouch products are the most affordable in its price point when you think of price/features/quality ratio. Consumers believe that they are getting the best “bank for their bucks” when they buy our products.
Does price matter? Yes it does. The lower the price point, the more important it is. But when you start talking about smartphones, price makes a difference but not as strong as brands do. The higher the price point, brand recognition, quality and perception of quality plays a more important role in the decision process.
In essence, you are saying as far as Alcatel Onetouch is concerned the brand is more important than the price.
No, they are both important, I am saying that the price is what you are willing to pay compared to the value you will get from it. Ultimately, you don’t want to compete on price alone.
So my goal is be competitive as much possible, but not to be the cheapest.The goal is not to make the distributor lose money, the goal is not to make the retailer lose money, the goal is not to make Alcatel Onetouch to lose money, the goal is to be as competitive as I can and still be profitable. There is no point running a business that is not profitable.
How passionate are you with the brand Alcatel?
I am very passionate and if I am not passionate about the brand, I will not be talking about it. You see a lot of brands come, but Alcatel Onetouch will remain here. The brand is in Nigeria for good that is why the launch in Nigeria was quite a big deal to us. I’m quite positive that the brand will positively impact the local market.
What is the response so far?
We have had excellent response. We have achieved in 3 months what it take 1 year for other OEMs to achieve. I’m been quite impressed.
Our partners in the country have done a wonderful job.For instance, Konga hasinvested so much on us, it doesn’t happen if you are not an accepted brand. Especially,when it is done withinsuch a short period.
What is your reach? Are you just in the south western part of the country?
No, the reach is everywhere. The whole premise of Alcatel Onetouch is to make these devices, accessible and affordable for everyone in the country. This is the role of our distributors.
Is Nigeria the hub for West Africa or you have another office elsewhere?
No, Alcatel Onetouch is with the exception of two brands,the third most accessible brand in Africa, in every country, in every market.
Right now, my personal focus is to succeed in Nigeria, although I am managing some other countries. It’s very critical for us and our goal is to be successful in Nigeria.
What’s your best feature on this phone, what do you like using?
Idol3 5.5’ reversible screen.It’s a premium device at an affordable price. Check it out…
Could you compare Nokia and Alcatel OneTouch- the two telephony companies you have worked with?
I cannot compare the two; they give me 2 different things. This is the second company that I have ever worked for and I am working for and I’m bringing in my experiences to try and open up Alcatel Onetouch in Nigeria.
Jokingly, it’s like asking a parent which childe you live the most. You don’t compare them, they give you good things, and they all have different features that they deliver to you. I have been fortunate.
Right now, my goal is to use all the experience that I have acquired over the years to open up the company to Nigerians, so consumers can have access to the unique technology that Alcatel Onetouch offers.
How do you think Alcatel Onetouch will be in Nigeria in the next 6 months?
People are still questioning, people are still curious and that is okay.
I want the conversation to continue and then to actually believe our value proposition that what we say is what we do. And that’s part of the growth- we want to be relevant and to be an option.
When you go to the phone shop, Alcatel Onetouch should be an option.