Chinese smartphone giant TRANSSION Holdings to trade publicly

TRANSSION Holdings, Africa’s leading smartphone provider, is preparing for a “backdoor” listing in China.

This will make the company, which is based in China but provides smartphones to Africa and has moved into the Indian market since 2016, one of the biggest publicly traded phone makers in China.

Transsion caters for around 30% of that African smartphone market, with its affordable brands TECNO, Infinix and itel.

Vice President Arif Chowdhury spoke to Business Chief in January about the company’s success managing the African market locally, and the company’s plans to gain a larger share in India.

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Much of TRANSSION’s success, according to Chowdhury, has come from penetrating developing markets as opposed to remaining in China: “if we look at 2006-7, the mobile phone penetration in chia or the west was 60-70% but for Africa’s market the penetration rate was less than 30%,” he explains, adding, “we saw the industry in terms of China and the global technology movement, so we knew the market would really flourish, even in African countries.”

Chowdhury says focussing on developing markets has been key for TRANSSION, and understanding the local market is important. For example, TRANSSION’s dual-sim phones suit African users best, and the company even developed ‘Africa Focus’ technology so that ‘selfie’ cameras, which are popular among African mobile users, are optimised for darker pigmented skin. “We also developed local language,” Chowdhury adds, “such as in Ethiopia, we launched phones with Amharic, Tigrinya and Oromo…  this brought to the consumer’s mind that the company is very serious and wants to stay in the market”.

TRANSSION hopes to transfer its controlling stake to the Shenzhen-listed Shimge Pump Industry Co via an asset and share-swap deal, according to a filing it made on Thursday. It aims to then gain Shimge’s stock listings.

China is home to numerous smartphone giants such as Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi, but few are currently traded publicly.

In 2016, Transsion expanded into India which is another huge, low-penetration developing market where the company’s affordable, adaptable brands will prove popular.

Despite plans to go public in China, Chowdhury has maintained a local focus is key in the market. “A key slogan is ‘think globally, act locally: this means using global technology to solve local needs and demands… we have to continue to listen to the market, staying ‘on the ground’ and not managing Africa from China. Africa has to be managed from Africa.”

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