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itel’s success in Africa: Conqueror of the bottom of the pyramid

Ten months ago, many were shocked to read that lowly itel had become the biggest mobile brand in Africa. itel produces basic feature phones and budget smartphones. How could they pull that off? But people who find that difficult to believe clearly do not understand the dynamics of the continent.

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iTel's success - MEA mobile market share Q2 2017
itel’s success – MEA mobile phone market share Q2 2017

In 2013, I published an article, The battle for mobile will be won and lost at the low end. The title speaks for it: I argued that anyone interested in hitting it big in mobile on the African continent had to invest in the bottom of the pyramid – the low end.

That is exactly itel’s turf. And just like I said, this budget brand has made huge strides to overtake giants like Samsung, Nokia, and Huawei to become the biggest mobile brand in Africa. By “mobile”, we mean both feature phones and smartphones.

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itel sells truck loads of feature phones, and that is their handle on the market. Middle and upper class people may turn up their noses on iTel all they want, but the brand is meeting the needs of a very large segment of the market on the continent. The results speak for themselves.

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Counterpoint Research has published market share figures for Q2 2017, and itel is still looking good. Here are the figures for the Middle East And Africa (MEA):

Feature Phones And Smartphones

  1. itel: 19%
  2. Samsung: 19%
  3. TECNO: 13%
  4. Nokia HMD: 5%
  5. Huawei: 4%

itel and Samsung have held the top spot in a tie (unless they both have that same figure because of rounding up).

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Smartphones Segment

For smartphones only, the picture is quite different. Samsung has a stranglehold on the continent by a wide margin.

  1. Samsung: 32%
  2. Huawei: 8%
  3. TECNO: 7%
  4. itel: 6%
  5. Apple: 5%
iTel's success - MEA marketshare smartphones Q2 2017
iTel’s success – MEA smartphones market share Q2 2017


As you can see, the gaps between Huawei and TECNO and itel and Apple are very small, and there is great potential for upsets down the list. It will take some effort for anyone to threaten Samsung smartphones in Africa.

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It is interesting to see that TECNO isn’t very far ahead of itel in terms of smartphone sales. Likewise, it is even more odd that Infinix Mobility does not make the top 5 list. One also wonders where Gionee is down the ladder. It is early days for Nokia’s new smartphones; we shall have to see how things play out.

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Back To itel

itel’s budget strategy has paid off well and should yield more results if they press on. The African smartphone segment is begging to be disrupted. If itel can pull off a smartphone that matches the Freetel ICE 2 in specs, performance and price, they will easily catch up and own the smartphone segment too.

References

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Market share statistics: Counterpoint Research

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