In the past couple of months, Tecno has probably been the phone brand on the lips of most people in Nigeria’s tech space. Different views and opinions about the brand. Sure, we spare a few minutes to to praise the Samsung’s S4 gimmicks, or talk about how good we hope BB10 will be every now and then, but Tecno is positively on fire in Naija.

Some say Tecno is all just noise. Others think they are here to stay, dominate and do big things. Shortly, you’ll see why I’m inclined to agree with the latter sentiment.

Tecno used to be known for making phones targeted specifically at the bottom of the pyramid. But from late 2012, the company plugged into the Android ecosystem and started venturing into the “smart” device space. Of course the techies ranted about how the “chinko” devices could never make sense. Fortunately for Tecno, a vocal minority is still a minority, which is what techies in Nigeria are.

Tecno is winning because they are getting a few things right.

First of all, price. In a country that’s largely made up of poor people, price is a huge factor. You can rant all you want but until you give the average Joe 145k to buy an HTC one, you can’t affect his decision to stay with a cheap brand like Tecno.

Next, quality: You can accuse Tecno of being chinese, chinko whatever, you can’t accuse them of poor quality product. Their products work and work well. They give you about the same feel as say, a Samsung for far lesser price. For instance the Tecno phantom A (F7) has about the same specs as the Samsung grand (which has a screen that’s nothing to write home about) at half the price of the Samsung grand.

Content: increasingly, Nigerians are getting exposed to the goodness of smartphones. What better way than to experience it on a phone platform that always tries to outdo itself? Instagram? Android.

Phone size: I didn’t think this was an issue until a few days ago I helped an older family member to get a phone at SLOT. She originally went to get an Asha (which is Nokia’s answer to the Tecno series). Eventually, she didn’t buy the Asha for one reason. The Asha 311 at 17k was only 3 inches. She had to squint to read what was displayed on the demo phone and complained that the phone was too small. Then it struck me. Of All Tecno’s Android offerings, there’s none below 3.5 inches, except the Q1 which has a keypad). An iPhone 4 is 3.5 inches so you see where I’m going.

So many older people (who have the disposable cash) are actually happy with Samsung Galaxy Note, S3, S4 et al, because the larger screens compensate for their deteriorating eyesight. Also kinda explains why Samsung galaxy pocket’s influence waned. Anyways, She eventually got a Tecno D5 for 14k. The D5 has a 4 inch screen, android ICS, 8GB memory card included, and a protective case even.

Loyalty: As much as we’ve been techies and stayed in our own world and haven’t bothered with any of Tecno’s former offerings, BoP people have been using them. I met one guy with a Tecno N3 (costs 13k or so) at a cybercafe and I asked him if he loved his phone. He answered “yes”. Then I asked why he bought it. He said because he’d been using Tecno’s lower offerings and their phones have been rugged. So when the time to upgrade came, he chose Tecno. He’s happy to be using a smartphone from a brand he has come to trust. Simple.

Marketing: Tecno realized one thing; Techies don’t control the market. “Illiterate” traders do, so go for them. Saying that Tecno makes their presence felt at computer village is an understatement. They’re where it matters, cutting deals with the sellers, big and small. They’ve also employed a clever marketing skill; promise little, deliver more. With the D5 comes a plastic protective case for your phone but they wouldn’t even tell you that. The Tecno Phantom A(F7) comes with a power bank which you can charge and use as a torch and also store power to charge your phone and other devices when you’re out. Again, they don’t emphasize this.

But are they selling?

Like gangbusters.

I went to SLOT on Adeniran Ogusanya, Surulere around 4.30 p.m, and their Tecno smartphones were sold out, save for one N7. At the SLOT on Medical road, Ikeja, around 5.10 p.m, they were apologizing that they had sold out ALL Tecno smartphones.

The other day, a Co-Creation Hub developer tweeted about 11 developers at the hub getting the Tecno phantom A in one week.

Conclusion: These are just a few observations I made. Notice that I’ve been talking about just the smartphones, when in fact their “dumb awful phones” are still selling! I saw people buying them in large numbers at Computer village.

For me, the thing here isn’t whether or not Tecno is selling. They are selling and selling HUGE. The question is what business lessons are there to be learnt from these Chinese? I remember reading where Jason Njoku of Iroko TV talked about staying at Festac which is close to Alaba instead of going to stay in V.I or Ikoyi because according to him, he had to stay close to where his money is — Alaba. That explains why Tecno is at computer village where their money is, not in a posh V.I office.

In the end it’s simple, make a great product. In a country of poor people, get your pricing right. In a market dominated by traders, take your product to them and liaise with them. Ignore the techies, they’ll come around when they experience your awesome offering. Wow, your customers. Promise little, deliver big.

I think it’s safe to say that Tecno have got their shit together.

Dikachim Nwankwo is a technology enthusiast. He’s worked on, and is working on a few projects within the Nigerian Tech space. Follow him on Twitter here.

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