Arabian Reseller spoke to Farhad Khan, Vice President-Commercial at XTOUCH, about the company, its products and future plans
How is the smartphones market shaping up in the Middle East and Africa region?The Middle East and Africa region is one of the world’s most vibrant and fast-growing mobile markets. Compared to other mature markets, this emerging region is experiencing more rapid changes and fierce competition if we consider around 50 brands are tracked by GFK in UAE market, more and more smartphone players will continue to come but few of them can survive for a long time.
The growth has slowed down because of the regional economic situation and unstable currency rate in two of the biggest markets Egypt and Nigeria. We can see that entry level 4G smartphones and 5.5-inch smartphones are still under high demands. XTOUCH is very selective on the entry to mid level 4G products development, and has well positioned itself as the Top 5 players after 4 years market penetration.
Has affordable data plans/4G pricing benefited the smartphones market in the region in general?
Yes, data plan has definitely helped the smartphone market in the region. The various data plans available for both prepaid and postpaid customers. Both the service providers Etisalat and Du have come up with various combinations of competitive offerings.
What sort of features do smartphone buyers go for today?
With the advent of latest technologies and various offerings from different players in the market, the customers have really become very picky. However, some customers go for speed and memory to have better gaming experience while others go for multimedia functions. Generally, a good design and a good user experience are attracted to most customers. We try to combine both in our products. We know our market and also our target segment so we launch our product accordingly.
Are smartphone users loyal to certain brands or are they open to new brands if they see the value in it?
Compared to iPhone which has its own operating system, Android users are not really loyal to any particular brands. Most tier A brands spend a lot of marketing dollars to acquire customers, so they want to retain their customers base by offering latest and innovative products. But customers are really open to new brands if they really see the value.
How do you as a vendor make sure you are above your competition in terms of providing value to your customers?
We deliver the high-quality user experience and latest technology to customers with affordable price. Quality is the most important thing for us. We have been launching quality devices with the latest technology and attractive design. Our focus is to provide best user experience to our customers. We are committed to quality, cutting edge technology and maximum value for our customers by providing competitive consumer electronics products.
How does your company make sure you offer optimum tech and customer support to your customers?
As a brand, we are particular about after sales service and are committed to provide excellent tech and customer support to our customers. To make sure customer can easily solve any problem they may face, we have our own service facilities while we also cooperate with local professional service provider in some of the markets.
Many smartphone vendors prefer to sell their devices online. Why has the shift happened from brick-and-mortar setup to online sales?
We are actually among the first few brands to go online with our InnJoo brand on Souq and Jumia in this region. Definitely E-Commerce has its own advantages, it offers visibility and convenience to the customers and also cost of sales is less, that’s why online platforms are very attractive. The time to market is less and the shelf life is also short and you save various retail expenses.
Do you sell any of your devices online?
Yes, we have a dual brand strategy. InnJoo is essentially an online brand and available in many online channels across the Middle east and Africa region and important among them are Souq, Jumia, Konga, Wadi, Yudala, Hmall and others. Though we do sell InnJoo offline in many countries.
While XTOUCH is essentially an offline brand in the UAE and GCC and available across key and independent retails. Notable among key retailers are Carrefour, Sharaf DG etc.
Have you worked with local or regional telecom services providers to launch exclusive devices in the region?
Well, we did work with operators in the region and offered our devices to the customers through operators but this region is mainly open market and our focus is also on the open market. In the meantime, we are engaging with many operators in the region for their device requirements.
How do you work with your channel partners to make sure they are offering optimum customer service and making good amount of margin over products they sell at the same time?
We have a clear mechanism for distribution and retail. Our channel is more passionate about our brands than any other in the region and this is the testimony of the fact that we are here to stay. While many brands came and went, we are still going strong. So our customer service is good and channels do make good amount of money by selling our products.