Mr. Amin Mortazavi, Acer Vice President for Middle East and Africa, visited Nigeria recently where he met with the company’s channel partners. He also took out time to speak with the press on the company’s new products, marketing strategies, expansion plan, competitive advantage, among other topical issues.
Overview of Acer Business Operations in Nigeria and across Africa
We are looking at the English West African countries and building a team here. We are in the process of strengthening our teams. We have teams in Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria. We understand the growth is coming from Africa and if we want to capitalize on this growth, we need to have our feet on the ground. We’re really glad to be here to sit with our partners, connect with our distributors and have good conversation with customers. What I have seen so far in the last couple of days in Nigeria, people are really eager for business here. It is a country of hardworking people. Wherever you go on the streets, you see entrepreneurship and businesses that are putting a lot of efforts in order to be successful.
We also see a trend where the government is enabling the middle class and the truth is that the middle class is getting more prominent by the day in Nigeria. We would therefore like to be here to be a technology provider to the growing middle class. As Acer group, we want to strengthen the values between people and technology. This is our task and the mentality of how we do business across the globe. We also have a huge focus on education which I believe is very relevant to the African continent. We have also done a couple of very successful programmes in the southern part of Africa, and we would like to replicate those successes not only here in Nigeria but also in the rest of the English speaking African countries especially in the east cluster of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia.
Increased Presence in Nigeria
We also saw a huge growth and slow process of sophistication here in Nigeria in the retail segment with an increased purchasing power of the middle class. We have a lot of partners we met and tutored on retail strategies on how we want to take our presence in the country to the next level. Talking about our presence in the country, we believe business cannot be remotely controlled, therefore we’re going to increase our feet on the ground. We have Rafy Abrahamiam, Regional Manager, West Africa, will be relocating here and would be fully based in Lagos, and we’d further strengthen the team. Sometime during the middle of the year, we are going to strengthen with new hire the commercial section in Nigeria in order to take a better advantage of the market. We’d like to strengthen our presence here to support our partners but also to participate in all the educational infrastructural efforts that the government here in Nigeria is putting in place.
Acer as a Global Player
Acer as a company is a very small company on a global scale with a small number of employees (about 8,000). At least, compared to our competitors, we are a small company. But the fact of the matter is we would like to provide the best price to customers and make sure that our partners have the right margin. We also need to make sure that we do not have too much of an overhead. The organization is very lean which makes us very flexible and reduces the process of decision making but we absolutely believe in dynamic markets like in the Middle East and Africa which will benefit our distributors and second tier partners, doesn’t matter if they look like the commercial, SMEs or retail segment of the market.
It is also important to mention that out of our 8,000 employees globally, we have about 760 of them involved in Research & Development. This is about 10% of the global workforce. Their mandate is to look at how the future of computing should look like by acquiring feed back from channel partners and our customers.
This is one of the projects we are looking at, and to achieve this we have decided to put Rafy Abrahamiam on ground to attend to customer complaints and enquiries about the products and as a way of looking into that, we’re developing a specific hardware for the educational segment. I cannot reveal enough but we’re coming with hardware that is really designed primarily for the sensitive educational markets. We believe Africa is a perfect place for this kind of efforts in education. Education is most needed and key in Africa. This will encourage government’s policies on education and with a member of the team on ground, (Rafy Abrahamiam), we are going to attend to every requirements of the government in terms of commercial and interface with Acer consumers. For instance, we have a very successful programme we implemented in Johannesburg, South Africa. We have joined hands with the Orlando Pirates, a soccer club, and we equipped 2 classrooms with 60 seats fully equipped with Acer IT equipment. And we provide computer literacy to some of the kids in schools in Soweto. It is not an exact concept we intend to do here, but a similar programme that will foster educational policies in Nigeria.
Any Plan for Technology Transfer
We need to first establish our presence and push our products here. With increased acceptance, we can then look into the possibility of establishing assembling plants here. We understand that government gives the benefits and incentives to those technology providers who would not only provide the technology but do a transfer of technology and provide jobs. Definitely this is something that we are going to do at the right time. We need to take it step by step. And with time, we’re definitely going to do that. But for now, we’re not structured for that. We do have an assembling plant in our Dubai office and we’re basically the only PC manufacturer that does have the capability across the region where we can custom built products that meet the requirements of education but we also have offices in East Africa where we can custom built products for them.
Acer’s Market Share in Nigeria
I do not have very accurate data but depending on the segment you’re looking at, our market share would be about 10-12%. But the question of a market share is sometimes philosophical because I don’t want to invest my money just to achieve the market share. I believe if we do the right thing, increasing the market share will be a positive side effect in the things we do. The only one, who can actually judge us, is our customers in relation to how they behave when they pick up our products. So I rather invest my money not into capturing market share per say but doing the right thing.
Acer’s Market Penetration Strategies
The strategy is simple. As Acer, we’re 100% channel players. We don’t do direct business. We fully rely on our channel partners across the globe that help us play the game in any given country. We have also kept our relationship so far with our partners and distributors and we intend to build on that by reconnecting with them and discussing the details of our coming back to the market with them. We already got them interested into reviving the business and relationship together. We’ve also gotten the commitment of our partners to help get to where we deserve to be. So the strategy is to go through channel partners.
On the educational sector, we have a couple of products that cater for the educational segment, we also have on the EMEA level, a group of specialized people who look after educational segment and come up with programmes that help to cater for the requirements in the sector. It’s a systematic strategy. Through channel partners, we allow local skill development for integration skills. We provide integration and systems design. We place huge values on our channel partners because they are integrating our products into the localized environment. We provide online training systems free of charge for our partners to enable them have access to information and acquire knowledge on integrating our products to the people. We provide the software platform that allows us manage the students and school environment. We provide this software free of charge and our channel partners do the integration. We have a website that is specifically dedicated to our education commitment.
We do handle after sales services through our qualified partners in Lagos, Abuja, Port-harcourt. We are in the process of looking for a second one since after sales support is a vital part of our business and relationship with our customers. We’re going to increase in terms of services definitely.
Future of PCs and Laptops with the Advent of Smartphones and Tablets
Yes, because laptop and desktop still have their market and we believe there will always be customers looking to own a desktop or even a laptop. More so, because the requirements of the customers are evolving, we also have the right products when it comes to the tablets and we’re going to launch very interesting tablet products excellent in size and affordability. We do have 10% of our workforce in R&D to tackle the requirements of the evolving landscape and changing requirements of the end customers. Demands will always vary in terms of products because what you can do with a tablet is quite different from the uses of a PC. That’s why we have minimum content creation on tablet products as against PC, so there will always be need for PCs. We still have a lot of first time buyers that are well educated and informed. We have all sorts of different consumers and we have the right products for everyone.
We provide very attractive and friendly prices. We have very wide range of products and there is product for every consumer.
Strengthen Ties with Telecommunications Operator in Product Roll Out
Besides education, telecom is the next one. We partner with various telecoms across the continent and intend to do that here in Nigeria too.
In Acer, grey marketing does not exist because we do not push products into the market that the market cannot absolve.
Strengths of Your Channel Partners in Nigeria
We have partners across the country. From Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, Calabar and all across Nigeria. So, we have people reaching across to our customers. On the corporate side, we have to do a little bit of home work there because that’s one area we do not have a very good standing. So we would like to increase our work force here on the ground by getting someone to go further on the corporate side.
Unique Selling Propositions of Acer brand
We have very competitive prices, high configuration at affordable price compared to other products. This is why users are going for Acer. Our strategy is to let consumers know about our range of product offerings. Not also on the pricing, but also technology and features. We try to attend to every computing need across the market.
Depending on the unit you are looking at, you can have an operating device of minimum of seven hours.
Assessment of the Nigerian Market
The Nigerian market is full of uncaptured and untapped opportunities. I dare to say that if the economy carries on, on the right path, it can overtake South Africa. This is what gives us confidence to come and do business here.
Acer Product Flagship
It is not defined by us but by our customers because we have a whole lot of products to choose from. So we have a lot of flagship products. We’ve started with a full range of products since last year called the Ultra Books and for our tablets, we have W500 & W700 which are professional tablets with full fledged Windows 8 for corporate professionals to integrate in their existing Microsoft environment; and as time goes on in the year, we’re going to introduce some wonderful products in terms of features and affordability.