HTC introduced its new country and marketing manager for South Africa to members of the press at an event in Sandton on Wednesday, 9 July 2014.
It also announced that it was, once again, relaunching its brand in South Africa.
The latest relaunch follows a series of attempts to jump-start HTC in South Africa after it lost its solid footing in the PDA and smartphone space.
Towards the start of 2012, HTC announced that it was taking a more direct interest in the South African market.
It would take over dealing with the big two operators (Vodacom and MTN) from its former distributor, Leaf International Communications, while Leaf was to stay on as a “strategic partner”.
Leaf would then handle deals with Cell C, 8ta (now Telkom Mobile), Altech Autopage, Nashua Mobile, and the like.
However, Leaf soon disappeared from the scene and during the latter half of 2013 HTC had officially closed its local offices.
It once again appointed a distributor, Ingram Micro, to represent HTC in the local market.
Just over six months later Ingram Micro was out, and HTC has taken the reigns in South Africa again. This time with “fulfilment partner” Brightstar.
Douglas Jewson, country manager for HTC in South Africa explained that Brightstar would handle all the logistics related to HTC’s products in South Africa, while HTC was responsible for the relationships with operators.
The new, new HTC SA
Asked for more details about the new structure of HTC’s operations in South Africa, Jewson said that the Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer’s relationship with Brightstar in SA is a “true partnership”.
Jewson explained that he was approached and appointed by HTC directly, but they work from the Brightstar offices in Johannesburg.
The team at Brightstar is a shared resource between HTC and Brightstar, which helps reduce the costs of coming back into the market, Jewson said.
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…
Addressing questions of what they would be doing differently this time round, Jewson said they would be applying HTC’s principle of “Quietly brilliant”.
They would focus on partnering with operators, and are taking a phased approach to bringing HTC back into South Africa, Jewson said.
He said that HTC Global has approved their marketing budget, which they plan to spend on both print and online advertising.
Not all of HTC’s advertising will be about branding, though.
There will also be a heavy focus on their operator partnerships, according to Jewson, saying that they will feature in the operators’ deal sheets.
HTC will also reciprocate the opportunities operators are giving them by putting specific deals on some of their own advertisements as a “call to action”.
To be able to sustain their marketing efforts, HTC has factored in costs for what they call a “market development fund” in the price of their devices.
This means that a portion of the sale of the device goes to the operator for the marketing of the device.
“If we sell a device, automatically money gets set aside for future marketing,” Jewson said.
Asked whether HTC’s local office would be responsible for pushing out software upgrades, the head of sales and product management for HTC EMEA, Kostas Kastamonitis, said that would be managed by HTC Global.
“There is always ongoing software support on all our products,” Kastamonitis said.
It is a commitment made globally, but it will affect the local market, he said.
Competing with Samsung
Further questioned about how HTC will compete with the bonus data many other manufacturers offer, as well as Samsung’s accidental damage from handling warranty, HTC was careful not to compare themselves directly to other manufacturers.
Jewson said warranties that cover accidental damage such as shattered screens or water damage are under consideration globally. However, there is nothing they can disclose at this time.
Regarding bonus data, Jewson explained that getting additional data bundled with a contract is not necessarily handled by the manufacturer.
He said they sit with the operator and negotiate such deals by offering a lower price, limited exclusivity on their device, or a specific colour so a part of the deal’s budget goes to additional data.