Sharp Electronics, the Japanese manufacturer, has its eyes cast on Kenya, a market awash with cheap counterfeit electronics from China. How we made it in Africa’s Regina Ekiru caught up with Elji Taninaka, Sharp’s man responsible for sales in Africa, who was in Kenya for a two-day trip.
Sharp has been operational in Kenya for over a decade; what can we expect from the company in the coming years?
We used to have a partner in Kenya, but due to bad pricing and marketing strategies our sales were very minimal. In August 2010 we appointed a new partner who is in charge of our distribution in Kenya. Since then our sales have picked up tremendously. By the end of the year our target is to grow our value market share to 5%, from the current 2%.
What strategies do you have in place to achieve this, keeping in mind that other electronics firms are also entering Kenya?
We have launched new products for the African market, which we believe will be well received in Kenya and the rest of Africa. We have very competitive prices and good quality to match. Now that our products are available in main outlets we will invest more in communicating with retailers and consumers. We expect to rotate and launch more products in the near future specifically targeting the African market based on the feedback we receive from consumers.
How important is the Kenyan market to Sharp?
Kenya is the hub of the East Africa region due to logistics. In our point of view, operating in Kenya is a marketing strategy. Our success in Kenya will influence our entry and good performance in other East African states like Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia. It is very important for Sharp to grow and sustain this growth in Kenya. The demand for electronics in Kenya is huge. There is a growing market and demand for quality and hi-tech electronics. We do have headquarter offices in Egypt and South Africa. In the future we hope to open the same in Kenya (for the East Africa region) and in West Africa.
Any new trends you have observed in the sales of electronics in Africa?
There is a fast move towards digital electronics such as televisions, home appliances and audio visual appliances. The future is digital.
Is the Japanese crisis likely to affect the performance of Sharp?
Though our production plant is based in Japan, I do not know yet whether the crisis will affect the production process and volumes. However, the sales in Japan will be affected this year. It is therefore important for us to expand our reach overseas so as to compensate for this. We are widening our reach outside Japan. For instance, though our products are currently available in half of Africa, our goal is to have partners and distributors in each African country.