Mid-Range Smartphone Market Heats Up with Launch Of Obi In Kenya

John Sculley Obi Mobiles
From Left, Obi CEO and Founder John Sculley , Obi Model Agnes Wairimu and the Company's Head of Marketing and Communications Yusuf Kamal Khan

Competition in the mid-range smartphone segment is already hot, and following the launch of Obi Smartphones into the Kenyan market there is more scramble for this market. Obi are targeted at the youthful demographic transitioning from feature phones to smartphones. Currently, Microsoft, Tecno, Infinix, Alcatel and Samsung have a strong grip of the mid-range segment with new players such as Wiko seeking a share of the pie.

Speaking during the launch of the devices, Former Apple CEO John Sculley who is one of Obi’s backers,  termed the smartphones more important than the Television in the 20th century.  “Smartphones are no longer technology instruments but cultural statements” he added.  The Obi Mobile devices launched in 2014 in India before expanding to other parts of Asia. “We have 4.3% market share in UAE, 1% in India, we seek to replicate the same success and grow to 5% by Q1 2016”, Obi Mobile Managing Director Amit Rupchandani told Techweez.

East Africa is currently experiencing a 300% growth in smartphones which informed the decision to launch the devices in East Africa first.  The devices are set to launch in Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda in the next few weeks.  There plans to launch into Nigeria and South Africa soon.

John Sculley Obi Mobiles
From Left, Obi CEO and Founder John Sculley , Obi Model Agnes Wairimu and the Company’s Head of Marketing and Communications Yusuf Kamal Khan

Amidst the competition from established players, Obi prides its designs, cost and distribution network as the keys to capturing the 5% market target. Obi has managed to assemble a team of former Silicon Valley honchos who worked in design at Apple in the quest to create the   smartphone.  “We are a design marketing organization and we seek to bring a device with a premium feel and design but at an affordable price range”, added the managing director.

Obi further plans to leverage its already established networks in marketing and distribution thereby increasing its foothold to over 70 countries considered as frontier and  emerging markets.  In Kenya, Despec is the distributor of the devices and plans are at an advanced stage to sell the devices on Jumia, a model which worked  in India through FlipKart. The devices will be available also be available at the Safaricom, Airtel and Orange stores at the end of the month.

The Obi launched six devices into the Kenyan market with more expected in the second quarter of the year. The Obi range of devices will be refreshed every  six months with newer devices seeking to bring to market the latest technology in mobility.  Obi has a research and development facility in Silicon Valley working towards creating their own patents to advance their smartphones. They are also hoping to provide a customer centric model through after market support and customer care centers for the devices.  The devices will come with a 14 month warranty.

During the launch, John Sculley also announced plans to set up a venture capital fund Obi Ventures keen on investing in startups in Kenya and the emerging markets. The launch of the devices and  venture  adds to increasing interest in the Kenyan Technology market by major global players.

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Eric writes on business, govt policy and enterprise tech.


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