Amit Patel, Samsung Uganda Country Manager Mobile announcing the Samsung Christmas phone rush promotion

Mark Sue, New York-based Stocks Analyst was quoted recently saying, “Samsung is growing faster than the market.” He aserted that smartphone penetration is now maturing to a replacement cycle in the developed markets, while growth in emerging markets is expected to be driven by demand for low-end/mid-tier smartphones. But to get a feeling of what they playing field is like in East Africa, Albert Mucunguzi caught up with  three of the company’s Uganda Country Manager – Mobile, Amit Patel, and here are the excerpts.

We have seen a number of new phones from you over 2012 ranging from the Galaxy Pocket to the S series. Which of your mobile products has done best on the East African Market this year?

We will segment the market into three tiers, Premium segment, mid segment and entry segment. In the premium segment, our global hero models have been the first to get the consumer adaption in East Africa market, these are Galaxy S2, Galaxy Note followed by new products like Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2. In the mid segment, we have had success through Galaxy Ace and Galaxy Advance suiting the East African consumer choice. In the entry segment, we have been very successful with Galaxy Pocket as a huge volume driving appealing to youth and entry smart phone users.

Speaking of mobile phones: are you in position to share information about the number of individual units sold in each of Uganda and Kenya?

Due to confidentiality agreement with our partners, we are unable to share this information but with strong partnership with operators like Airtel, MTN, Orange, Safaricom and our distribution partners, we have increased our sales to double in smart phones.

Why are most of these products still significantly more expensive when they are launched here than on the international market.

There are 2 reasons behind it. Number 1, in Uganda we have high VAT and tax on import of mobile phones and Number 2, in international markets, Operators subsidize handsets heavily with monthly payment plans for customers. On the otherhand, the pricing in Uganda is at par with other east African countries with similar commercial environment. We are working tirelessly to ensure that this perception is reversed but it has been as such an industry situation.

What is your approximate market share in the smart phone market industry in Uganda and East Africa generally?

We have done very well with Smart phone industry thanks to the consumer choice and Android OS uptake coupled with our Smart Touch Wiz technology and overlay benefits like S-Pen as seen on Galaxy Note. While there are no industry statistics available as such for the measure, we are seen as a leader in Smart phone industry in Uganda and East Africa.

Do you feel that brand loyalty plays a factor in Samsung’s success?

At Samsung we value our brand and brand loyalty as a huge asset. We are seen as an aspirational brand coupled with wide range of innovative products offering to the consumers. We are also one of the few brands offering 24 months warranty offer for all our products in Africa. Both these have contributed to the success.
What is East Africa’s role in contributing towards growth in the rest of Africa?
East Africa is seen as the hub for innovation and new business models in sub Saharan Africa and many of the success stories in East Africa have been transported to other markets. We believe that the business environment as well as consumer awareness are very catalytic for the growth of East Africa.

A lot of apps development challenges have been organized by a number of equipment manufacturers over the years. Why has Samsung not done likewise, despite the company’s extensive line of smart products?

We have been involved in Pivot 25 in 2011 and Pivot East in 2012 as Gold sponsors which is a key platform for East Africans to display their developer talent and get to the fame. We have since then been involved in training workshops, boot camps and engagement with the various ‘hubs’ or developer community organizations to nurture talent as well as help developers to upload their Applications on our Samsung App Store. This initiative has seen many Ugandan apps on the app store. Further efforts to engage with Local Developers in Uganda are underway and we are very open to engage directly with all developers in Uganda.

What forms of CSR is Samsung Uganda currently involved in?

We have a number of discussions with the Government and Ministry officials as well as operators to see to start up CSR projects in Uganda. We have done programs for Education sector like Solar Powered Internet school, IT projects in Schools, Health sector programs to other initiatives in East Africa and we are very keen to see how can extend a CSR (CSV) projects into Uganda. Discussions are progressing and we will be able to update this as the quarter progresses.

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