Exclusive Interview – Stephen HA, General Manager, TECNO, speaks about what the business is doing to make life better in Africa- The Legend News
TECNO’s commitment to responding to local consumer demand has meant for its camera capabilities alone, it has analysed millions of data points, reviewed over 3,000 social environments and assembled six global R&D centres to make over 1 billion R&D investments. In 2020, its extensive technology research and data-driven R&D methodology resulted in TECNO’s award-winning, market-leading AI vision algorithm for adapting to dark complexion imaging.
Stephen Ha, General Manager at TECNO.
TECNO has just launched its new brand slogan, ‘Stop at Nothing’, delivering on a promise to unlock the best of contemporary smartphone technologies and making them accessible for global emerging markets. This follows the launch of its latest flagship model Phantom X and the upcoming CAMON 18.
Ahead of the CAMON 18 launch, Business Insider Africa (BI Africa) caught up with Stephen HA, General Manager, TECNO, to discuss the latest tech trends and TECNO’s USP vs other mobile companies and next steps for the business.
BI Africa: TECNO has had a strong run on the back of record smartphone sales in Nigeria and Africa, and you have given a tough time to established players such as Samsung. What has made this possible in such a short span of time?
Stephen: From day one, TECNO has strategically focused on global emerging markets, starting in Africa. It has remained committed to making smartphone devices that our consumers admire and desire at accessible and affordable price points. Unlike many international brands who prioritise the preferences of consumers in mature markets, TECNO focuses on users in emerging markets and creatively combines global technology with the actual needs of local consumers, bringing them cutting-edge global technology with localised innovation and differentiated features. This is our DNA. With “Glocal” innovation and an international mindset, focusing on consumers in emerging markets has made TECNO stand out, allowing us to grow from an Africa-focused brand to a rising challenger in the mid-to-high-end smartphone segment in global emerging markets.
BI Africa: What do you think is the primary reason for this success, and how important is the African market for you?
Stephen: “Consumer-oriented” is the very centre of everything we do, which is also the very core of our “Glocal” strategy. Driven by this, we have developed a successful globalisation strategy and methodology in developing products for emerging markets. Most importantly, we have developed an international mindset for examining the impact of local culture, traditions, and economic levels on consumers instead of just looking at the global technologies’ trends and supply chain resources. This has become the springboard for TECNO’s expansion into over 70 countries globally.
Looking into the future, Africa will continue to be one of our core focus areas. As a matter of fact, Africa is often the global launch market for most of our important launches, for example, the global launch of our flagship sub-brand PHANTOM X, the global launch of the renowned CAMON series and the upcoming CAMON18 launch in October – and so it continues.
BI Africa: What is TECNO’S USP, and how do you achieve your price point for the African markets?
Stephen: As TECNO rises to the status of an international brand, we have gained our reputation and customer trust from core competencies, including the overall quality of our devices, unique leadership in big-data-driven dark-skin camera innovations and stylish designs with exquisite details. We have won awards for our features optimised for emerging markets, and we take pride in our innovative materials and local aesthetics. Most importantly, TECNO always has an “emerging market first” strategy, which makes TECNO the expert of emerging market consumers and enables the company to design products local consumers desire most. At TECNO, besides stylishly designed innovative products, we strive to provide the best in its market, over and above the competitors, which drives the brand to deliver the best benefits for its consumers. Doing so has allowed TECNO to gain recognition for leadership in Africa.
BI Africa: What do you think about the culture of technology and innovation in Africa, and what is TECNO doing to make life better on the continent?
Stephen: The rapid evolution of Africa’s technology and innovation brings forward the development of 5G, e-commerce, digitisation and mobile connectivity. These innovative tech developments come with the rise of the younger generation on the continent. For TECNO, we see the rising generations as the driving force behind the meteoric development of Africa’s future. As a leading premium smart tech brand rooted in Africa, TECNO has been sparing no effort to empower local development through innovative mobile technologies, with our commitment to provide the world’s latest technology through localised innovations that are both affordable and accessible for all. Through our work, we have found that young people and TECNO share the same spirit, always showing the optimism and ability to turn obstacles into opportunities and ultimately building a better future for themselves and others. Therefore, last month TECNO launched its new brand slogan ‘Stop At Nothing’ with a brand video while launching a brand campaign with hashtag #StopAtNothing that pays tribute to those who continue to push forward against all odds.
#StopAtNothing represents TECNO’s recognition of human progress and people’s pursuit of purpose, potential and excellence. By this campaign, we celebrate “progressive mavericks” and those “young at heart”, the youth who admirably stay resilient in the face of adversity. For us, #StopAtNothing is so much more than just another brand campaign. It represents the values and the attitude that we as a brand embrace and see as TECNO’s role in providing the technology they need to progress even further. It also cements TECNO’s total commitment to supporting our consumers with innovative and stylish technology solutions that act as an enabler of progression.
Looking at the future, by launching the new brand slogan ‘Stop At Nothing’, TECNO has secured its mission and commitment to bring innovative products with stylish designs and a delightful experience to consumers globally. We will keep sharpening our expertise to better understand our local consumers in emerging markets to continue to bring them the right product with localised features.
BI Africa: How do you look at the African environment regarding the ability to do business here and the lack of a component ecosystem here?
Stephen: There is an old saying that “You can see further standing on the shoulders of giants”. Africa is now standing at a golden shoulder of the digital era, in which cutting-edge technology combined with internet services are developing unprecedentedly quickly. Driven by this trend in recent years, we’ve seen the rise of African economies and the continuous improvement of communication infrastructures with the increased internet penetration in Africa. According to GSMA, the percentage of smartphone users in sub-Saharan Africa is expected to reach 67% by 2025, and per capita, data consumption is set to increase by 8.5 times in the next five years. Africa’s smartphone landscape is changing rapidly. Especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mobile technology will be even more integral to how people live and how businesses operate. It will enable new digital solutions for small and large enterprises and support consumers’ growing use of online channels. We see strong confidence and consumer interest in a digital-centric future in Africa, with mobile at the centre of creating and consuming innovative solutions. As a leading brand, it is important that TECNO continues to make breakthroughs in mobile technology to create huge potential for the consumers and society, ushering in an era of lightning-fast mobile connectivity and new digital possibilities.
BI Africa: Africa has seen waves of Chinese brands. They have a shelf life of a few years, and then the next brand comes. Do you think a big disruptor will come and change the smartphone industry again?
Stephen: As a booming continent with huge potential and the rise of a new generation, undoubtedly, there will be more international brands coming out of China and other countries that will be drawn to Africa, including those from the smartphone industry. At TECNO, we always embrace new changes and competition because it will also help TECNO to sharpen our competitive strengths further so that we can continue to satisfy our consumers. The smartphone industry is a very dynamic and booming industry that provides an interface for the digitisation of society and the whole spectrum of social life. As a brand dedicated to African and global emerging markets with a long-term commitment to its customers, TECNO has gained a unique competitive strength and differentiated itself from the industry. With ‘Stop At Nothing’ as our brand essence, TECNO will passionately strive for innovation and progression, and stop at nothing to push the boundaries of innovations in smartphone design, camera, and total user experience, to connect the continent with a world of future possibilities.
BI Africa: Is it becoming more and more difficult to innovate in the smartphone space?
Stephen: At TECNO, we always place consumers at the heart of what we do, and we know there are still many neglected demands to be fulfilled among our consumers. For example, consumers are looking for a more varied choice in mid to high-end smartphones. They are looking for new and exciting features in their smartphones, refreshing designs with an international feel but local aesthetics, new system functions that optimise the machine-people interactions, new services through mobile etc. Therefore, from the perspective of consumer demand, there are still huge opportunities for humanised innovations that will benefit the local consumer. We’ve seen the growing trends, and we are eager to push the competition into new boundaries to make flagship technology and innovations available to the public. That’s why we launched our first premium flagship, PHANTOM X, in July this year. We will continue our commitment to unlocking the best contemporary technologies for consumers, giving them stylishly designed, intelligent products that will inspire them to uncover a world of possibilities and enjoy a smart life enabled by intelligent technologies.
BI Africa: Over the past few quarters, popular smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have struggled against TECNO to retain a larger market share. Do you have any advice for these companies?
Stephen: As much as Samsung and Apple may dominate the international headlines, the real competition on the continent is taking place in the middle to higher-end smartphone brackets. We are leading the challenge because TECNO started as an emerging-market-first brand from Africa, where our products and services reached every African market without discriminating or needing to restrict its geographical focus, relying on the quality of its products and the features it can offer; giving consumers what they want. It sounds simple, but TECNO always passionately listens to our consumers in Africa and takes on the challenges to bring innovative products our consumers like, desire and are looking for.
BI Africa: When Steve Jobs was running Apple, and Bill Gates was running Microsoft, they were kind of each other’s nemesis. They had a frenemies type of relationship, where they respected each other, but they definitely competed pretty harshly. Who’s your nemesis?
Stephen: There is a famous Chinese saying, “With three men walking, there is always a teacher among them.” TECNO is lucky to compete with Samsung, Apple and other companies so that we can learn from them and make progress together. For TECNO, we are in a very humble position with an ambition to become a globally recognised smartphone brand. We know there is still a long way to go, a lot to learn and many challenges to conquer. Hence our brand spirit ‘Stop At Nothing’; we will keep innovating and progressing while learning from best-in-class industry practices.
BI Africa: Over the years, you’ve shown us with the Phantom X series that your cameras are some of the best on mobile devices. Do you still think it is necessary to compare yourselves so strongly with Apple and Samsung?
Stephen: From day one, TECNO developed a unique and different business strategy from the industry which led to TECNO’s position today. For us, the consumer is always at the centre of everything we do. En route to a new development, TECNO has two important mirrors safeguarding our success; the consumers and the industry. By closely looking at the consumers, it ensures our emerging-market-first strategy brings popular and innovative products to our consumers. Also, by looking at the industry, it enables TECNO to always keep up with international technology innovation and trends, and means the success of TECNO’s “Glocal” strategy; an international mindset and local innovation. This is the methodology that has differentiated TECNO from industry competition. With the launch of PHANTOM X, TECNO intends to redefine the premium flagship phone trend and evolve it to new dimensions that exemplify premium design, camera innovation and seamless customer experience punctuated by offline-enabled voice intelligence and incredible privacy protection.
BI Africa: Switching over to 5G, when can we expect to see TECNO’s first 5G devices in Africa?
Stephen: TECNO closely follows the development of the 5G network in Africa. Last September, we launched the first 5G CPE product in Africa, which provides an ultra-high-speed connection while remaining compatible with 3G/4G/5G and is highly cost-effective. It benefits multiple areas, including the smart home, intelligent medical, agriculture, transportation, finance and the industrial networking of things. In addition, we’re aware of the low popularity of an optical network and incomplete infrastructure versus a high network connection cost in emerging markets, especially in African markets. Therefore TECNO 5G CPE brings an innovative network connection solution that enables ultra-high-speed and compatibility and efficient data exchange while maintaining an extremely low connection cost for end-users.
TECNO is now preparing to launch its first 5G smartphone in Africa. We will keep you posted on our progress!