The battle for mobile will be won and lost at the bottom of the pyramid. I can end this article right here, and it will suffice. However, that would be no fun. The fun is in making comparisons and taking jabs at contrary views, so we can all have a rumble. Let me use one of the most extreme cases to buttress my point.
Some have pointed at Apple’s success at the high end of the mobile game and used that to argue that it is the profits that count, and not the sales numbers. It sounds all good and dandy, but note how even the almighty Apple has begun to adjust to the realities on the ground. They have to or else they will lose both sales and numbers. Already, we have the iPad Mini, and we now have news of an iPhone Mini.
I can almost bet that Apple will never do a proper low-end phone. It isn’t their style. Still, they are smart in adjusting, even if slightly, to what must be glaring for all but the most jaundiced to see – the rich, ripe and wide bottom of the pyramid. Yes; Apple is only skirting the extreme top of that bottom. Still… Because of its business model, Apple will remain a niche player in terms of market share, but of course will smile to the bank. No issues.
Real Revolutions Happen At the bottom of the pyramid
In economics, the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) is the largest, but poorest socio-economic group. Anyone with an understanding of human history will tell you that real revolutions happen at the bottom of the pyramid. Apple may have brought about a radical shift in mobile user experience, but it is the manufacturers (or manufacturers) that deliver similar experiences to the BoP that will be hailed as the hero(es) and deliverer/s of the people.
We had mobile phones in Nigeria twelve years ago, but they were beyond the reach of the average person. Remember those mobiles you had to pay N80,000 a piece to purchase? Yes; those. The revolution started when prices dropped within the reach of people at the BoP with the advent of GSM technology.
Look at how TECNO is taking the Nigerian smartphone market by storm. They meet the needs of the BoP. The average Nigerian speaks so glowingly of TECNO that one would think mobile phones didn’t exist before that brand showed up. Does anyone remember how Sagem used to be so hailed? If only, their reincarnation in the form of Infinix can repeat the feat.
Nokia has been a household brand in the Nigerian mobile market. Till today, someone like my dad and mom will not purchase a mobile phone if it does not have the Nokia logo on it. Nokia’s adventure into Windows Phone may have taken off slowly, but see what has happened with the budget but capable Lumia 520. Released just a handful of months ago, it is outselling every other Lumia device and leaving them in the dust. It is today indisputably the most popular Windows Phone smartphone in the market. The bottom of the pyramid effect again.
Even further below the budget Lumia is the new Asha series. I have had one with me for a couple of days, and it is a truly amazing device at a much lower price point than the Lumia 520.
Looking To Invest In Emerging Markets?
Brands can do well in the market by focusing elsewhere, no doubt, and many of them play that game well. However, the revolution is at the bottom. This is even more pertinent in emerging markets, where this revolution is happening as we speak. Are you looking at investing in the mobile market in Nigeria or Africa in general? Or in South America and Asia? Explore the bottom of the pyramid, because that is where all the action is. Forget the prejudices; there is a lot of money to be made there. The battle for mobile will be won and lost at the bottom of the pyramid.
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Founder of MobilityArena. Yomi’s journey in mobile started in 2001. Besides obsessing over mobile phones, he also started creating WAP sites (early mobile-friendly websites created with WML). He began writing about phones in 2004 and has been at it since then. He has owned over 200 devices, from Symbian, Palm, PocketPC/Windows Mobile, BlackBerry/BB10, webOS, Windows Phone, Firefox, Ubuntu Touch, to Android, iOS, and KaiOS operating systems.