China’s biggest smartphone maker that has never sold a single handset in its native country has managed to dominate markets across the African continent. Transsion is a brand that is virtually unknown in the West and in several parts of Asia as well, but it has left global smartphone brands like Samsung, Apple, Nokia and others far behind in a continent that is home to more than a billion people. Busy cities across Africa like Nairobi, Lagos and Addis Ababa are filled with bright blue shops with unmistakable Transsion brand-name Tecno emblazoned across its doors. Besides a towering headquarters building in the Chinese city of Shenzhen that is lost among several other skyscrapers, Transsion does not have any store or sales points in China.
Unlike its local counterparts Huawei and Xiaomi that started their business in China before expanding to other markets in Asia and the West, Transsion started its operations in Africa and continues to focus on the local market there and does not show any interest in the Chinese market. Its products are designed to suit market demand and Tecno cameras have been optimized to adjust more light for their natural dark skin so photographs look beautiful.
George Zhu, the founder of Transsion had spent a decade in Africa when he was employed as head of sales for another mobile company which made him realize that selling handsets in the African market which were typically made for developed markets would not be feasible. He started operations during mid – 2000 which was a time when the Chinese government was encouraging local entrepreneurs to seek out new markets for their products especially in Africa which was an emerging market. Though by then cellphones had become a necessity in China, they were still considered a luxury in Africa so the firm’s first strategy was to build dual-SIM phones with long battery life and use local language keyboards like Amharic, Hausa and Swahili.