AG Mobile, a local cell phone brand, is embarking on an expansion drive into Africa’s biggest economy – Nigeria – after being successful in Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. By Gugu Lourie
CEO Anthony Goodman, who founded the company 10 years ago and has grown it to provide feature phones and smart phones in most parts of southern Africa, outlines the expansion plans.
AG Mobile supplies mobile phone operators and retailers such as Ackerman, Pep Stores and Edgars with feature phones, smartphones and tables.
The company recently teamed-up with South African hip-hop artist Cassper Nyovest to sponsor his recent Fill Up the Dome event.
AG Mobile signed a partnership to produce an exclusive Casper Nyovest-inspired smartphone brand. In the past it has used other musicians such as Kabelo Mabalane and DJ Fresh to promote its brand.
AG Mobile may use the same strategy in Nigeria to quickly build its brand among Nigerians, who love their music.
The company is planning to sell its phones in Nigeria before Christmas.
“We now have started our business in Nigeria, which is coming on 1 December 2015. We have identified a trade partner and an exclusive distributor in Nigeria, who has been in distribution for a long time,” says Goodman.
AG Mobile has signed an exclusive distribution agreement with Ringo, a Nigerian telecommunication service and solutions provider, which has its headquarters in Ikeja in Lagos State.
“Ringo, supplies the operators. They also have their own stores,” Goodman says.
“Nigeria is an open market and we will have an online strategy with Jumia. We will be doing extensive marketing in Nigeria.”
About tackling the ‘tough’ Nigerian market, Goodman says: “We are ready. It’s tough in certain respects, but I don’t believe it’s tougher than South Africa.”
The Nigerian market is a gateway to the West African region, in which AG Mobile doesn’t have a footprint.
Asked if AG Mobile will use Ringo to expand into other parts of West Africa such as Ghana and Senegal, Goodman says: “We haven’t discuss that. We’ve got a Nigerian strategy with Ringo. We definitely have a West Africa and other African countries strategy, whether is aligned with Ringo I can’t give you a clearer answer”.
“Certainly will look at Jumia to go to West Africa market and other markets where Jumia has presence. Obviously, once we found some success with Jumia, which I am confident of that will lead us to all the countries they have an online presence.”
Jumia is Nigeria’s No.1 online retailer.
AG Mobile also works with Taiwanese chipset supplier MediaTek to design its own feature phones and smartphones.
“AG Mobile are in Nigeria to establish a brand and deliver quality,” says Dominique Friedl, a director of corporate sales in South and sub-Saharan Africa for MediaTek.
Friedl suggests that AG Mobile could leverage on the popularity of Nollywood and musicians in Nigeria to grow AG Mobile’s brand.
He praised AG Mobile for opting to work with local partners to enter the Nigerian market instead of following global brands that operate from either the Middle East, China or Europe to distribute its products in Africa’s most lucrative market.
“I think it’s fundamental to have a local partnerships. That’s the nature AG Mobile has decided to launch in Nigeria.”
taking two new smartphones – the Zoom and the Boost to entice Nigerian customers.
Goodman believes that these handsets would differentiate AG Mobile in the Nigerian market.
The Nigerian market is really tough and the customers are tech savvy.
“I believe the Nigerian market is mature and despite the price we think we will attract customers by virtue of having good products (smartphones),” says Goodman
AG Mobile – which was the first to launch its own brand of phone in South Africa in 2007, and has since launched over 50 other devices – guarantees replacement of any faulty device for the lifetime of the phone, and three years after the phone has been discontinued.
The warranty includes the replacement of two cracked screens – at no charge. While AG Mobile pride itself on swopping out a high percentage of its phones, the lifetime warranty and screen replacement refers exclusively to AG Mobile flagship device the Ghost.
Goodman wouldn’t be drawn into commenting on the numbers of smartphones the company is planning to sell in the first month in Nigeria.
“We haven’t entered the market and is difficult to provide a clear indication of how many phones we will sell a month in Nigeria. We are going to be aggressive and market our brands in Nigeria aggressively,” says Goodman
Moving into Nigeria may give AG Mobile’s business a fillip for its smartphones and make it one of the biggest African-based smartphone manufacturer.
“It’s fantastic to enter the Nigerian market. Our next entry into real growth and we are very excited of prospects being able to give Nigerians what we have been giving South Africans – a well-priced, quality product,” says Goodman.