Microsoft recently launched two models of Lumia smart phones in Uganda. Mariam Abdullahi, the general manager, Microsoft Mobile Devices East Africa, spoke to Julius Businge about their operations.
How have the devices been received by the market?
We are getting good reports from our partners – MTN, Airtel, Midcom and Simba Telecom. We believe Ugandans will love them because they come with a full range of features that smartphone lovers like today.
What is your experience with your partners in Uganda?
Microsoft growth plan is through partners and we believe that the power of growth is through partnerships. We have a small employee base but with 10, 000 partners in Africa. MTN is a partner not only in Uganda but also beyond. We are partnering with Airtel in 17 countries. Our relationship is based on mutual growth.
It is one year since Microsoft acquired Nokia mobile devices. How is the transition going?
We have been received exceptionally well. Our devices offer you a full office, which is one of the top three most desirable skills for employment – attention to detail, communication skills and office. You don’t need to stay at your desk at the workplace when you have our devices. I think with a fun team in the company, the experience has been good.
What are the benefits of acquiring a popular brand like Nokia?
We acquired Nokia devices and services. Yes, it is important for our future growth plans and you are right Nokia is a popular brand. We still do feature phones labeled Nokia. If it wasn’t popular and important to us it wouldn’t be there. What is important to us now is how we attract more people to using more smartphones. For us to do that we are looking at giving them cost- friendly and quality devices with the right support.
Generally, how does Uganda compare with the other markets in the EAC?
Uganda is growing very fast in terms of usage and purchase of smartphones. Uganda is a loyal market for us and it continues to be so. From the usage perspective, the data market is growing. If you speak to MTN, Vodafone, Airtel and the rest of the players in the industry, they will tell you that. Our devices have been used exceptionally well. Our expectations are high given that the size of the middle class is growing day by day. We expect demand to go up.
For this market segment, what opportunities do you see coming as EAC countries integrate?
The market will be bigger and we expect to have innovations to meet market demand. We will offer a lot for more in terms of access to devices, innovations to ensure that businesses run as they wish.
Any challenges in these markets?
It is a fast-moving market. In my few months on the job, I have realized that the exchange rate [volatility] is a challenge. You cannot easily plan when the exchange rate is changing all time. Also, a lot has been said on counterfeits. But for us, we run our race. Our job is to convince the customers to appreciate the value on these products. We also see competition in the markets. But we believe this is always good and healthy. We are running our own race and competition keeps us on our toes but we are absolutely clear about what our devices bring. The market has its challenges but we focus on opportunities to fully serve our customers.
This question of high taxes in Uganda to what extent does this affect your growth?
It is a fact. But Uganda is not the worst in East Africa or in Africa. What we need to know however is that technological aancement leads to technological growth in terms of job creation and tax remittances. We have always engaged the government when it comes to this issue so we can give more value to customers. We have to always tweak to ensure our values are loved in the market.
It’s never easy being a supervisor for three East African markets -Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. What principles do you use?
I believe in team work. I believe in partnerships. There is no way one can be successful without having a solid team working every day and in harmony. I have been in this position for now four months. Prior to this I had worked with Microsoft for two years. I was working with this same team I am leading now. I was in charge of Microsoft Operations managing Sub-saharan Africa.
Any future plans going forward?
We are always moving and looking forward to bringing new products on the market. Soon we will launch Windows 10 in this market.
Source : The Independent