HTC stands and delivers

Windows Mobile technology developer and former third-party manufacturer HTC is gearing up to take on its former partners in the Middle East smartphone market.

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By  Ronan Shields Published  December 31, 2006

Leading Windows Mobile developer HTC is preparing a fully-fledged assault on the Middle East markets after revealing its inaugural range of HTC-branded smartphones at GITEX Dubai in November.

HTC plans to leverage its formidable reputation as an OEM technology provider to mobile handset vendors including i-mate, O2 and Virgin Mobile, to seriously challenge these players in the smartphone and PDA markets.

“We are in the fortunate position of having attracted business partners that are eager to deal with us,” says Florian Seiche, vice president of HTC EMEA.

“We have a reputation for providing quality technology solutions in the smart handset space. HTC technology is featured in more than 80% of Windows Mobile devices currently on the market.

“Since our inception nine years ago our innovations have really driven this product segment, and given the current boom in demand for smartphone devices in the Middle East, we felt it was an ideal time to establish the HTC brand as standalone entity.”

The company’s European and Middle East and African (EMEA) division will oversee the company’s operations in the Middle East, Fleiche explains.

Despite the HTC moniker replacing the company’s Qtex smartphone brand in Europe, Fleiche says the company plans to continue marketing its new handset range under the Dopod brand in the Far East.

HTC is destined to make waves in the Middle East by sheer virtue of the fact that its new range of handsets will compete directly with those of its former partners.

The company’s transition from manufacturer to vendor has already seen the company lose many of its lucrative OEM partnerships with companies such as O2, leading industry pundits to question the motives behind such a move.

“The decision to operate as a brand in the region stemmed from our desire to become more proactive in the market,” says Seiche.

“As a company that supplies the products to established brands we are in an ideal position to make such a move. “In a sense the most experimental move we have made is in negotiating new channel partnerships.”

Seiche concedes the company faces a massive task in raising consumer awareness about its heritage as a key supplier of smartphone technology and its vision for the future.

“One of our main objectives and challenges in the Middle East will be to raise the profile of the brand among consumers, as we are already very well-known among mobile channel players,” says Seiche.

“This will require forging very close relationships with key stakeholders, particularly major retailers in the region.”

Seiche claims the intense competition that characterises the Middle East smartphone market makes it hugely important for HTC to forge solid partnerships with key distributors across the region.

“The Middle East presents a unique proposition in terms of its market dynamics, particularly when compared to Western markets,” he says.

“What sets the Middle East apart is that channel distribution plays a hugely influential role in determining the success of your operation and how deeply you can penetrate certain markets across the region.

“In the past, HTC had little or no input in terms of dealing with distribution partners or providing marketing support, so we feel that this will be one of our major challenges moving forward.”

Seiche says HTC’s smartphone range attracted significant interest from potential distribution partners and delegates at GITEX Dubai.

The company announced its first channel deals at the show with Dangaard Telecom and Link Retail Distribution.

“The partnerships are in addition to our distribution deal with Leaf Wireless, which currently represents HTC in Africa,” says Seiche.

HTC will open its Middle East headquarters in Dubai next month, a move that Seiche says will enable the company to provide enhanced service and support to its channel partners in the region.

“We are committed to providing our regional channel partners with all the help they require to ensure HTC is quickly established as a quality smartphone brand,” he says.

“We are selecting these partners on their ability to meet the specific demands of retailers and end-users in countries across the region.

“With the opening of our office in Dubai we aim to exert a stronger influence in terms of developing distribution strategies, while offering our partners value-added services such as sales training and customer support.”

While Seiche remains reluctant to provide sales projections for 2007, he says the company plans to pursue business in emerging markets across the region where brand recognition is not such a pervading factor when it comes to consumer purchasing decisions.

“In terms of targets for our first full year in the region all I can say is that HTC wants to establish a reputation as one of the best brands in the segment,” says Seiche.

“We also aim to expand our presence in the emerging markets of Eastern and North Africa where consumer demand is astonishingly high for these products.

“In terms of percentage growth, these territories rank as some of the fastest growing worldwide and we believe this trend will continue for the foreseeable future.”

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