Electronics manufacturer Lenovo recently appointed David Drummond as Head of the Africa region. Drummond, a long time employee, has some big plans for the continent. ITNewsAfrica spoke to Drummond about Lenovo’s African expansion and their strategy for South Africa.
1. Will South Africa see more global products becoming available locally?
A lot of the “cool stuff” has first been launched in China by Lenovo, but they have always been available within the emerging markets. Often they have tended to be launched and tested in China, where we have phenomenal market share. This is important as we launch products in a market where we can track its success. Is the new stuff available to South Africans? Yes, but no more so than in the past. It’s a wrong perception that perhaps South Africa has been disadvantaged compared to the US or Western European markets. Within Lenovo, the Middle East and African markets are extremely important, so Lenovo is investing lots of money in Africa at the moment, rather than supporting North America.
2. With Lenovo’s African investment, will there be products designed specifically for Africa?
I think there is an enormous range of products to choose from, so we will choose the ones suitable to the South African market. And there are some really cool stuff coming soon — 5-inch tablets, 7-inch tablets, 3G — at very affordable prices… and more Ultrabooks. Currently, we are very much focussed on the U300S as an Ultrabook.
3. What is Lenovo’s strategy for South Africa?
Is there a plan for growth? Yes, and its mandatory. Lenovo makes no secret about its ambition to be the number one PC vendor in the world. That would be a great coup, and it is a requirement from an operations efficiency point of view — it has to be one of the corner stones of a global PC business. I am pleased with the growth of the consumer business in South Africa, because of the large products range available, we have been able to segment our product range to such a way that we are able to be present in all of the traditional consumer electronic stores, without having massive conflict in the groups. So for instance, you will see us in Makro, with the B-series (entry-level SMB product), and H-series (medium-level SMB product) — this exactly addresses the target market of the small and medium business users. And you will see us in Incredible Connection with a full range of consumer products. There is a whole raft of cool stuff linked to the launch of Windows 8. In terms of growth in South Africa, we are fairly well spread. On the consumer side, we are going broader and deeper, so expect to see us around.
4. How will Lenovo expand into the rest of Africa?
We are looking at focus countries — Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana — in the last twelve months we have set up new offices in Casablanca (Morocco). We are seeing the benefits of the investments in North Africa and the French speaking territories. We recently hired Emmanuel Revnitez, who is located in Nairobi, and we are busy building a team around him to properly manage the West, East and Central African markets. We have people on the ground in Nigeria and in Kenya. We have also done work on distribution networks with local distributors. These are fast growing countries. South Africa is forecast to grow about 6% in units this year, whereas Africa as a whole is forecast to grow by 11%. That tells you that things are growing much faster outside of South Africa.
5. Is there a sustainable future for All-In-One systems?
All-In-Ones are going tremendously well. I am delighted with All-In-Ones. It is going very well in hotels and information kiosks. On the consumer side, manufacturers have struggled a bit more in South Africa with them, and it may be that the price of an All-In-One is more similar to a laptop than it is to a micro ATX tower plus a screen. Less success there, not just for Lenovo, but for all vendors. This is very frustrating, because we have a very great range.
Charlie Fripp – Online editor