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Oppo outlines intention to raise stakes in SA smartphone market

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Liam Faurie, head of market entry and operations at Oppo SA.
Liam Faurie, head of market entry and operations at Oppo SA.

New entrant in the South African smartphone market, Oppo, which launched in SA last year, is preparing to tame the local market, by becoming the number one phone brand and creating jobs.

The Chinese phone manufacturer set out an ambitious plan targeting massive growth in the next five years, as it plans to shake-up the market by introducing high-quality, affordable devices.

In an interview with ITWeb last week, Liam Faurie, head of market entry and operations at Oppo SA, said the company will soon dislodge the big brands, which currently hold the biggest smartphone market share.

However, Oppo faces stiff competition from other brands, such as Xiaomi and Vivo, which have tapped into SA’s lucrative smartphone market and are already making inroads.

Oppo debuted in SA in September, and Faurie believes the market has embraced the newest smartphone brand.

“It’s been a rollercoaster ride. The market has welcomed us with open arms, if you consider we are now the top four brand in the Vodacom postpaid market with only three models. We have grown quicker than other brands that entered the market because we have invested in people,” Faurie said.

“We have one of the biggest field forces countrywide; we call them our Oppo ambassadors. We created more than 200 jobs in a pandemic. It’s unheard of for a company to start in pandemic and do what we have done.

“Our five-year plan is to be number one in this market. We will continually invest in the team, making sure the team is the best, and continue to bring products that make sense and are meaningful to SA users. When you put those two together, the results will come.”

According to Faurie, what sets Oppo apart from other brands is that it didn’t bring in a huge workforce from China.

“There is a small team of Chinese professionals that have come here and said let’s make local jobs. By a small number, I mean five people. We have created over 200 jobs and we continue to expand. We are adding new members, focusing on our retail team.

“These are our representatives. We focus on upskilling them; we focus on making sure they are the best. We believe we have the best team and will continually grow. We can’t wait to fill up more seats.”

The company last week unveiled its new smartphone, the Reno5 series, which it said is geared for the growing number of South Africans that are adapting to the digital world due to the effects of COVID-19.

Global disruption

The pandemic forced urgent digital transformation across the world, which Oppo said created demand for devices, as many people started adapting to online methods of working, learning, shopping and living.

“COVID-19 has brought 2025 forward. It has brought our digital life forward. It’s vitally important that smartphone manufacturers keep up with these times and make sure users have access to meaningful technology. Technology must assist our lives; it must make our lives easier.”

Despite the global knock suffered by smartphone manufacturers due to the pandemic, Faurie said the local market is recovering, thereby creating new opportunities, which prompted the launch of the Reno5 series.

“There are definitely different trends that have emerged on the market and it plays in our favour. One of those trends is flagship phones. Flagship phones have become more expensive, yet our wallets are under pressure more and more.

“So what we said is let’s bring in a product that any user who wants to use the latest iPhone or the latest Samsung will be impressed with, but it’s given at a price that will not break the wallet. All the flagship features you can imagine are in this phone, but for R15 000, starting at a contract of R499 a month. We are well-positioned and priced lower than the big guns.”

In the interview, Faurie lamented the slow pace at which the spectrum allocation matter is being handled.

“ICASA and the mobile networks are talking to find ways of dealing with spectrum. As SA, that is our next frontier. Release the spectrum to the operators and let them build 5G networks. 5G is a big thing; we are still on the cusp of it, and we don’t fully understand what it is going to do for us. Once we live with 5G, we will never want live without it.

“If we can expand on a 5G network, the devices, not only smartphones, will expand as well and I can’t wait for that future.”

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