Over the past weekend, I and four others went on a brief trip to China. Together, we visited the new headquarters of Transsion Holdings in the vibrant city of Shanghai.
The 11-floor building (fun fact: in China, the ground floor is counted as the first floor) is home to all of the company’s mobile phone subsidiaries — including Tecno, iTel and Infinix — testing laboratories, a research and development (R&D) centre among others. You can take a quick pictorial tour of the building over here.
In less than 13 years of its existence, Transsion Holdings has grown to having over 10,000 employees, who work together as one team, from about 60 emerging markets.
Here are a few interesting facts I learnt about the global original equipment manufacturer.
- Transsion Holdings was founded by George Zhu Zhaojiang, a Chinese businessman, and his business partner in July 2006.
- Before launching the company, Zhaojiang had travelled to more than 90 countries, which informed his decision to build an international mobile communications company with a focus on emerging markets.
- The company originally traded as Tecno Telecom Limited, with its base in Hong Kong and an R&D centre in Shanghai, China.
- By 2007, Transsion Holdings had launched its second mobile phone brand, iTel.
- For the first 2 years of its existence, the company focused solely on the South Asian market.
- However, research garnered from early visits to Africa and Latin America convinced Zhaojiang and his team that Africa could be their most lucrative market.
- Observing the trend among local consumers to own more than one SIM card, they became the first to bring Dual-SIM phones to the African market.
- By 2008, Transsion decided to stop selling phones in Asia so it could focus strictly on Africa.
Expansion and growth
- In 2009, Transsion Holdings launched its second factory in Yantian, Shenzhen, China.
- That same year, Calcare, its after-sales service arm was also launched.
- Calcare has since grown to over 1000+ service touch points around the world, including third-party centres in Africa, the Middle East and South-east Asia. This is excluding 5 strategically-located large repair centres.
- By 2010, barely 2 years after commencing full operations on the continent, the company had grown to rank number 3 in Africa by sheer sales volume.
Transsion loves Africa
- In 2011, Transsion Holdings became the first mobile manufacturer ever to setup a factory in Africa, when it launched its third factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
- A year after the Ethiopia factory kicked off operations, it produced the Tecno 3 series, which supported only Ethiopian languages.
- The factory now employs over 1800 workers.
- Transsion Holdings now has three factories in Huizhou, Shenzhen — both in China — and Ethiopia.
Transsion is trendy
- That same year, 2012, the Infinix brand was launched as a fashionable online smartphone line targeted at millennials.
- In 2014, Transsion Holdings reviewed its strictly Africa strategy and began re-expansion into other emerging markets.
- Transsion Holdings’ brands are now present in about 60 emerging markets in Africa, the Middle East, South-east Asia and Latin America.
- Between 2014 and 2015, other non-mobile phone brands besides Calcare were born. This includes the Oraimo (accessories) and Syinix (home appliances) brands.
- Since 2016, the Tecno, ITel and Inifnix brands have consistently ranked among African Business Magazine’s top 100 most admired brands. In 2016, Tecno placed 14th on the list while iTel and Infinix placed 25th and 37th respectively.
- Transsion Holding’s total mobile phone shipment in 2016 alone was a whopping 79.91 million units.
- Transsion Holdings now controls almost 40% of the mobile industry in Sub-Saharan Africa and has sold over 200 million dual-SIM phones globally.
- The Tecno brand alone has sold over 100 million units. iTel comes a close second with over 50 million units sold.
- In 2017, Transsion Holdings (sort of) acquired Spice, a 13 year-old Indian mobile manufacturing company, to facilitate expansion into the Indian market.
- In a bid to stay above the curve, Transsion Holdings maintains three R&D centres in Shanghai, Shenzhen and Beijing. It also works closely with local R&D professionals in Lagos, Nairobi and Hong Kong and a design team in France.
- With marketing centres in Dubai, Lagos, Nairobi, Hong Kong and 50 sales networks around the world, the company looks to make even more sales in 2018 and beyond.
Full disclosure: Transsion Holdings covered my travelling and accommodation expenses to Shanghai.
From Built in Africa archives – MainOne: 10 years building West Africa’s internet infrastructure
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