Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Electronics firms in battle for clients

PHOTO | SALATON NJAU Mr Rajnish Kauti, the Sony Gulf, Middle East and Africa deputy general manager (left), and Mr Rajeev Pallippamadam, the chief representative, East Africa operations, during the launch of the company’s new brands of VAIO laptops at Intercontinental Hotel, Nairobi.

PHOTO | SALATON NJAU Mr Rajnish Kauti, the Sony Gulf, Middle East and Africa deputy general manager (left), and Mr Rajeev Pallippamadam, the chief representative, East Africa operations, during the launch of the company’s new brands of VAIO laptops at Intercontinental Hotel, Nairobi.  NATION MEDIA GROUP

By PAUL WAFULA pwafula@ke.nationmedia.com

American electronics firm, Sony, has made Nairobi its hub for East and Central Africa as it races to catch up with rivals like Samsung and LG, who have set up a local presence in the fight to control the growing entertainment and appliances market.

The company, which has served the Kenyan market from Dubai over the past 30 years, intends to use its Nairobi office to extend its reach to 16 new markets in Africa. The approach is likely to upset Samsung, which has used its local presence to boost its market share.

“In addition to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Ethiopia, we plan to venture into Eritrea, Djibouti, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar, and Reunion Islands, among others,” Sony’s East Africa representative Rajeev Pallippamadam said.

He spoke during the launch of Sony’s first personal computers — the Sony VAIO laptop series — in Kenya last week.

Cut-throat competition

Headquartered in San Diego, US, Sony manufactures electronics targeting the gaming industry, entertainment, and financial industries.

Its decision to set up a local presence is seen as a reaction to the cut-throat competition it is facing in the Kenyan market, which has seen an increase of electronic brands itching for a piece of the growing middle class.

“This year, we have seen remarkable growth in the market and we want to tap into that to continue to grow our business here. Kenya is doing extremely well in terms of conventional consumer electronics and as an emerging market for new technology and digital products, so we think the competition will be healthy,” said Mr Pallippamadam.

Sony plans to open three showrooms by early 2013, with the first in Parklands, Nairobi, by January 2013 and another soon after along the newly-constructed Thika superhighway.

Growing demand saw its Japanese rival, Sharp, make a return to the Kenyan market. Sharp last week launched a Sh1 million TV set, targeting the high-end market, and a fridge, with an eye set on claiming 20 per cent of the market.

Sharp general manager for Middle East FZE Tagami Yasuharu said these products were part of the company’s assault on the modern luxury lifestyle market.

“Kenya is the first market in Africa to have the 80-inch TV and it is our gateway to East of Africa and we are very optimistic with our prospects here,” said Mr Yasuharu.

Sony now joins a growing list of global technology firms that are re-engineering their operations, expanding their presence, or setting up shop in Kenya as an entry point to the region’s markets.

Samsung and LG have gone further and put up centres locally to help train electricians to offer after-sales services in a bid to retain customers.

Engineering academy

For instance, Samsung’s second engineering academy, which opened in Nairobi recently, has a short-term goal of training 10,000 electronic engineers across the continent by 2015. Availability of electricians to repair their products is becoming a competitive advantage among device makers.

Last month, one of India’s largest low-end electronics manufacturers, Santosh, entered the Kenyan market with plans to set up a manufacturing plant.

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