Sung Yoon is the President and CEO, Samsung Electronics Africa. In this interview, he speaks with Jumoke Akiyode-Lawanson about the company’s plan for, and commitment to Nigeria. He also states reasons why Nigeria’s economy is the best for Samsung’s operation. Excerpt.
For a long time, Samsung remained dominant in the Nigerian android phone market, until other competitors flooded the market with more affordable devices. What strategies does Samsung have to remain relevant in this market?
Innovation and lead. Every year, Samsung invests heavily on Research and Development (R&D) globally. In 2014, Samsung spent $13.4 billion, over $14 billion in 2015, and $13 billion in 2016. In order to maintain Samsung’s market leadership in Nigeria, Samsung obtains feedback from its target audience through various channels, including ground market research and online/social media. Listening is just one of the ways of ascertaining our customers’ needs and pain points. Samsung processes feedback from the field on a daily basis through partners, dealers, trainers, as well as independent reviewers.
What has been your sales/market share in the past five years in this market?
Samsung Electronics West Africa is not at liberty to provide its individual results as a subsidiary. Samsung Headquarters publishes the results of the business’ performance every quarter. This information is available on the website.
How is Samsung dealing with grey market activities in Nigeria and what are its strategies to combat people faking its products?
Counterfeiting is a global scourge that is not peculiar to Samsung. We are consistently innovating and enhancing the quality of our products to ensure they are not easily counterfeited. It is a price quality brands have to pay. Samsung is very active in Nigeria, and our products have continued to do well in Nigeria and other markets around the world. However, counterfeiting has not significantly affected our dedication to meeting consumer expectation or delivering on our growth projections. With consistent attention and numerous counter-measures in place, we hope to surmount this hurdle. Even though we cannot give a precise figure on the percentage of counterfeit Samsung phones in the Nigerian market, the impact of grey market is significant in Nigeria. However, we are joining forces with relevant authorities to address the issue.
Nigeria has a huge market for technology, especially mobile phones. Have you considered bringing a manufacturing plant here? If not, what is stopping you?
We remain committed to the Nigerian market and implementing sustainable strategies to the benefit of our customers and various stakeholders. At this point we have no plans on bringing a manufacturing plant to Nigeria.
What are the pros and cons of operating in Nigeria as a technology-focused company?
Innovation has always been a major part of Samsung’s brand promise, and so operating in a forward-thinking country like Nigeria, which is eager to adopt new technology, is a major pro. Doing business in Nigeria, just like any other market, is characterized by both advantages and disadvantages, which should not be overlooked. With the current trend of things in the country, the pros outweigh the cons. This is a key consideration. Nigeria’s economy still remains one of the best for our operations.
Last year, Samsung downsized its staff strength; does this suggest that the business is not doing well in Nigeria?
Samsung is strategically re-aligning its business operations in Africa. By centralising operations and resources, we plan to introduce greater levels of efficiency on the continent. This strategic move will also enable us to focus more significantly on our product, sales and marketing functions. Samsung Electronics Africa remains committed to its clients, employees and other stakeholders across Africa and West Africa in particular. We will continue providing the high level of quality and service which our stakeholders have come to expect from us.
Nigeria has been declared out of recession; has this positively impacted on your sales?
Research and design have always been a major part of our business with local insight as a key factor. This strategy has continued to help us to understand, interpret or anticipate the needs of people. Even as the country is out of recession, we can say that, to a great deal, this has positively impacted on our sales. Though, we can only pray for the best.
The West African market is quickly becoming a lucrative market for manufacturers in the mobile and consumer electronics line. How is this impacting on Samsung’s market leadership?
Samsung Electronics has placed great emphasis on offering quality products to our customers. Moving forward, we will continue to focus on providing quality products and solutions. We have a wide selection of products that suit all our consumers’ needs, and we will continue to improve on this across our West African market. With more than 20 percent of the smartphone market, we have cemented our leadership in the mobile space. In TVs, Samsung continues to be the global brand leader, for twelve consecutive years and we are leading the global refrigerator market. In 2017, we stayed focused on our mission to deliver meaningful innovation to consumers and businesses. This commitment has helped us become the sixth most valuable brand globally. Thanks to our loyal customers we have rebuilt our mobile brand and market share position with the best-selling and best reviewed smartphones.
What are the major challenges that militate against the sales/purchase of premium products in Nigeria?
I really don’t feel there are any insurmountable challenges, because our premium products are for a niche market, which does not cover all the other segments. In this segment, we have people who have travelled all over the world and they know what is available around the world. At Samsung, we try to bring these products, which are available around the world, to our local consumers in Nigeria. As the economy develops, the purchasing power of a lot of people will increase and many of these people will look for niche products and services.
The market competition is getting fierce, what should we expect from Samsung in 2018?
Samsung is refocusing its vision and strategy for Nigeria. Not only will this see the company introduce new levels of efficiency, but it will also continue to deliver the highest quality products and services. Samsung has come up with a great lineup of products – for both Consumer Electronics and Mobile that are aimed at meeting our consumer needs in terms of seamless connectivity and efficiency.
What date will the Samsung Galaxy 9 be released?
Samsung Electronics West Africa (SEWA) is refocusing its vision and strategy for Nigeria, the West African sub-region and the continent in general. The exercise is geared towards stimulating a higher level of operational efficiency, with the overarching objective of providing customers with the highest quality products, sales and services. Samsung will unveil the Galaxy S9 at MWC 2018 in February. We are not able to provide you with further details at this moment.