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Nokia honours regional accessories distributor

Dubai-based accessories distributor Techmart has been recognised by Nokia for its 2005 sales achievements and for taking the fight to counterfeiters in the Middle East.

Regional Nokia mobile enhancements distributor Techmart has been honoured with Nokia’s 2005 Worldwide Original Enhancement Distributor award.

The company received the accolade for boosting sales of Nokia’s enhancements range in the Middle East, as well as its ongoing efforts to tackle counterfeiters of Nokia products across the region.

The Jebel Ali-based distributor is partnered with Nokia in 12 countries across the Middle East and supplies products to a range of major retailers including Jumbo Electronics and Carrefour.

Nokia vice president for Mobile Enhancements Razvan Olosu described the Middle East as one of the company’s fastest growing markets.

“We have a very reliable partner in Techmart, which is working with us to develop a compelling proposition for Middle East consumers in regards to our range of mobile accessories,” he said.

Olosu noted that the massive growth in demand for mobile handsets across the Middle East had positively impacted the accessories market.

“The Middle East is far from saturated in terms of mobile accessories products hitting the market,” he said. “Even the UAE, which is the most developed market in the region, still has plenty of potential for growth in regards to mobile accessories, such as bluetooth headsets and car kits.”

Techmart president M P Dharma explained that while the UAE remained the company’s most lucrative market in the Middle East, accounting for 35% of total sales turnover, demand was rising rapidly in neighboring territories.

“We only entered the Saudi Arabian market last year and already expect to triple our volume of shipments to the country this year, while in Iran we expect to double our sales over the same period,” he said.

Olosu and Sharma agreed that this demand was largely tied to the emergence of new bluetooth-enabled mobile accessories, such as Nokia’s forthcoming BH-series range of headsets that is scheduled for release in the second quarter of 2006.

“The market for bluetooth-enabled accessories is growing exponentially in the Middle East,” said Olosu. “It’s the kind of technology that can be used as the basis for a range of applications, such as digital audio and video streaming. This is where we will pitch our business over the next 12 months.”

Olosu said that Nokia and Techmart were determined to stamp out counterfeiting operations in the Middle East, which he conceded had significantly impacted the company’s sales turnover in the past.
“The value of the counterfeit goods market globally is estimated at around $US520 billion annually, and fake mobile phones and accessories claim a significant slice of this figure,” he said.

“In conjunction with Techmart we are successfully implementing strategies aimed at combating the spread of counterfeit goods in the Middle East. From a legal perspective, we look at commercial property rights, we raid suspected operations in conjunction with the relevant authorities in each country and we hire investigators to identify potential threats.

“Technically, we continue to develop new innovations aimed at differentiating genuine Nokia mobile accessories products from fakes. In 2004, we launched a range of handset batteries with holographic images and 20-digit identification codes that customers could use to authenticate the product online.”

Olosu explained that in addition, each Nokia mobile enhancement product distributed by Techmart carried a secret batch code and expiry date, through which an original Nokia product can be identified.

Sharma said that arguably the most important element of the companies’ strategy in targeting counterfeiters in the region involved providing reseller partners with a commercial incentive to only stock genuine Nokia products.

“Price is a major factor,” he said. “If you can keep wholesale prices in check, then you can guarantee that resellers will only stock genuine Nokia accessories. We also offer a 12-month factory warranty on our entire range of mobile enhancements which provides another inducement for our retail partners.”

Sharma estimated that with the aid of the UAE government and customs officials, Techmart had managed to claw back significant market share from counterfeit operations based in the Middle East.

“In 2003, we estimated that sales of fake Nokia accessories outnumbered those of genuine goods by 10 to one iacross the Middle East,” he said. “Since then though we have clawed back more than 50% market share and continue to improve on this figure by the month with the aid of customs officials based in the UAE.”

Sharma credited the transition of the UAE government’s counterfeit operations from the Department of Commerce to the UAE customs department as playing a major role in this success.

“The moment they (customs officials) suspect a consignment of mobile accessories might be counterfeit they contact us,” he said. “In the vast majority of cases, their suspicions have been proven correct.”
Sharma said governments across the Middle East were also showing increased interest in cracking down on counterfeiters “as products designed for the Middle Eastern markets are more often than not actually manufactured in the Middle East”.

“We are also seeing a major change in attitude among other governments in the region in terms of clamping down on counterfeiters,” he said.

“The commercial opportunities of doing business with the West often hinge on their commitment to identifying and prosecuting counterfeiters that cost Western companies millions in lost profits.”

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