Sony Ericsson boss speaks about African expansion plans

Last week global mobile phone manufacturer, Sony Ericsson, relaunched its products into the Kenya market after being absent for several years. Dinfin Mulupi spoke to Jorgen Berg, Sony Ericsson general manager in charge of Africa

Jorgen Berg

Jorgen Berg (Photo: Lee Mwandiki)

First of all, what were the reasons behind the exit of Sony Ericsson from the Kenyan market?

We were represented in Kenya through the Dubai market. At that moment we were focused on two propositions – the Cyber-shot and Walkman propositions. We were the first to come up with these innovations, however, our competitors soon caught up. This called for a change of strategy by consolidating the company and streamlining our operations. We decided to focus on markets where we had a strong position and this was mostly in the European countries. In Africa we continued operations in South Africa, Egypt and Morocco, although we haven’t quite succeeded in Morocco.

What strategy do you have this time around?

This time around we have rebranded ourselves and have new structures in place. Our focus is to work with our partners, Safaricom and Krishna International, to reach our customers. Last year we decided to focus on markets where we see the future and Kenya is one of such places.

The Kenyan market is quite unique, with affordability issues being critical. How will you compete with market leaders like Nokia and Samsung?

Let me state that within our structure, we are not addressing the low-end market segment. We do not have the intention to be there. Our target is the middle-end market. Our estimations are that 30% to 40% of the Kenyan market falls within this bracket. We are very ambitious, in two years we plan to have 10% of the market share in Kenya.

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Sony Ericsson plans to be the world’s biggest supplier of smart phones powered by the Google Android platform. How will you achieve this?

The Android software market is fast growing, in fact in some parts of the world it is doubling. We are on top of the Android platform and we are even adding new options for user efficiency. Our strategy is to utilise the capabilities of our parent companies, Sony and Ericsson, and mix the benefits of the two to give our customers music, games, good screens and other unique functionalities. We want to be different from our competitors and this can be seen in our design language.

What opportunities do you see in Kenya?

Kenya is a very important market for us. We see Kenya as a hub for east Africa and a gateway to entering other markets like Uganda and Tanzania. An added advantage is that networks allow roaming across the region. The fact that Kenya Airways flies across most parts of the continent also enhances the linkage between Kenya and those countries. We would like to use these benefits to reach other markets across the continent. Currently we have distributor coverage in 18 countries across Africa.

Which other countries are you planning to venture into?

We are eyeing countries like Cameroon which we will be entering in October. We have already had discussions with Orange, MTN and a retail chain in Cameroon. We are also looking at Ghana, Zambia, Gabon and Congo. We have already begun talks in these markets and should set base before the end of next year. We are also looking at Angola, where although we have been present for quite a while, it has been tough getting the attention of customers.

Dinfin Mulupi is How we made it in Africa’s east Africa correspondent