Huawei Leverages on Big Data, Analytics to Better Understand Market and Boost East Africa Device Sales



Big data is a buzzword that is often thrown around. Simply put, it is large data sets collected about a particular subject that can be analyzed to reveal behaviours, patterns and trends that can be used to inform decisions made in an organization. In an industry as competitive as the mobile phone industry, one of the most recognizable device brands in the Kenyan market, Huawei, has turned to big data to not only catch up but also try to one-up the competition.

Globally, Huawei is a market leader when it comes to big data solutions that it sells to partners around the world. Since my interest is directly in consumer devices like smartphones, I sought to understand how exactly the company is using the same to better serve the Kenyan and East African market at large since Nairobi is now Huawei’s main hub in the region i.e. operations in other East African countries like Uganda and Tanzania now report to the Kenyan office.

According to Patrice Muchwe, the Head of Channel (Devices) at Huawei Kenya, the company has internally implemented an Integrated Product Development approach that makes sure all the teams at Huawei are on the same page when it comes to making new products. What those teams provide as input in the product development process is as a result of interactions with data sourced from Huawei’s customers. That also ends up informing how the company decides on which devices are introduced to which market.

Huawei Kenya’s Patrick Muchwe during the interview

Positive market reception for a device whose focus is, say the camera or the battery, means that the company’s teams will not only ensure that such features are bumped up in a future version of a device but also that other devices available in a particular region are also strong in such.

Such data is gathered in a couple of ways. There is the data that the company gets from research firms like GfK that not only shows industry trends but also how Huawei devices are faring in each market and also broken down by segment – high-end, mid-range, entry-level. Tracking First Call Resolution among customers when they interact with Huawei’s support teams also helps inform the company where any challenges with its products lie and its product teams can pick up on that so that a future generation of devices addresses the specific customer needs and leads to better customer satisfaction scores.

We’ve been highlighting a couple of budget device options from Huawei in the last few months like the GR5 smartphone. Such devices and their specifications and features are informed by the data that Huawei is able to gather from users. In the case of the GR5 and its siblings, the GR3, the Y6Pro and so on, it is the need for cheaper smartphones that don’t compromise much on the feature set.

Mr Muchwe told me that thanks to the data the company has been able to collect, Huawei thinks it has cracked the Kenyan smartphone sweet spot: the Kshs 9,000-20,000 range. As per the company’s gathered data, it is not the sub $80 (Kshs 4,000-8,000) price range that most Kenyans prefer or that is hot. It’s the former. This is why Huawei, according to him, believes it is a step ahead of the competition in its quest to garner more market share in the country and in the region as well.

While the competition may have cannibalized the market before it, Huawei is confident the data it has gathered about user behavior in this market will be key in it managing to pull one up against its rivals in addition to other factors like the expansive retail chain it has been on a quest to set up by entering into partnerships with retailers like Tricom and FoneXpress.

In order to be able to better keep tabs with the devices in the region, Huawei will soon unveil eValidate, a service that will allow it to track sales of its devices available in this market in real time as well as improve service on the customer’s end by making it easy to activate the company’s 12-month device warranty.

It will be interesting to see how far the Huawei brand can go in this market in the short term and long term, how the competition responds and the market reaction.

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Emmanuel writes on mobile hardware, software and platforms.