By Emmanuel Elebeke
Mr. Nnamdi Ezeigbo is the Managing Director of Slot Systems Ltd, one of the major dealers in GSM phones, computers and other electronic devices. In this interview with Hi-Tech, he shed light on why counterfeit phones thrive in the Nigerian market, giving tips on how to differentiate them from the originals.
He also spoke on the impact of counterfeiting on the GSM market, the planned relocation of Computer Village, and why a made-in-Nigeria phone may not emerge soon. Excerpts:
The issue of counterfeiting has been a source of worry to many Nigerians, how have you been able to sustain the fight against the scourge?
The word counterfeit is not new to us in Nigeria. The cloning or faking of genuine products is in every sector of the economy, including drugs, electronics, clothing and likewise in the phone business. As you may know, many Nigerians believe that the only way they can make money is by faking other peoples product, cutting corners and selling fake products. It is funny to know that some of these consumers do know that the reason why some of the products are cheaper than the original products is because they are not genuine. But they still go on patronizing them.
How then can an unsuspecting buyer differentiate the two?
For them to know which one is original or fake, they should look at the shop they want to buy from. At least, it has to be genuine. Also, the name of the brand is another factor they must consider and find out if the phone comes with international code number, called IMEI number. If the IMEI number on the phone does not tally with the one on the pack, then they should know that it is not original.
Another thing a buyer must look out for before buying any phone is to find out if that phone has a 12 months Pan-African warranty. What that means is that, if the phone has or develops a fault within the 12 months warranty period, the owner can return it to the seller for an exchange.
With the influx of Chinese phones in Nigerian market, any phone that has 12 months warranty and IMEI, it means the quality of the phone can’t be in doubt. Colour is another factor people should consider when buying phone. This is because the colour of the screen will tell you if the phone is original or not. Some phones don’t display original colour when they are put on, while others do. The ringing tone is another factor. With ringing tone, it will be easy for you to identify fake phone from original phone. Polyphonic ringing tone is what we use in identifying genuine phones.
What are you doing to sensitize your customers from falling prey in the hands of fakers?
We advise our customers on some of these tips. We are also considering buying a column in the newspaper and air time in the television to educate them on these issues. Some of them get attracted to the fake phones and their accessories like batteries because they are cheap. We also advise them not to buy phones online because the manufacturers can give them any name they like and when it becomes a problem, they will not have anything to lose.
Some of them also do not have NCC license to operate but you keep seeing their products flooding the market on the daily basis. That is why we have Nigeria Communications Commission, NCC and Standard Organization of Nigeria, SON to guard against all these excesses.
What have been the impact of the fake products to you dealers?
Definitely, the influx of fake products has taken a greater chunk of the market. The market is huge, no doubt, and for that, we need to segment our own market, that is why we carve out our own customers and whatever we do to improve our market is targeted at them. I think that the poor Nigerians are the ones that suffer this most because they do not have the financial power to buy quality phones.
These are the segment we have lost to the fake market. Another we reason we lost that market share is that some of them are not aware of the existence of counterfeit brands. Though, they are just a little percentage of the market. It is not really a problem to us. Nigerians must realize that so long as some people are patronizing the market, such market will continue to thrive. I think Nokia, Samsung, LG have done much in that regards, by bringing phones to as low as N3,000 into the market, to serve this segment of the market, instead of them buying fake phones.
How long are we going to wait for a Nigerian made brand?
This issue of having a Nigerian brand is not new. It is our plan to launch one here. It is actually expensive to produce phones here in Nigeria because of the lack of steady power supply. We are planning to bring in a system where it will be easier for us to produce mobile phones here. For now, it is cheaper for the manufacturers to produce abroad. We have been having challenges and it is our plan to launch one here in Nigeria as soon as we are sure of steady power supply.
It is quite expensive to set up a manufacturing plant here in Nigeria because of unsteady power supply, so it will be very expensive to start manufacturing phones in Nigeria under this atmosphere. It is truly cheaper to produce them in abroad and bring them in here for sell. That is what we are doing with Tecno. After they are produced in China, we bring them here for sale. If we have a steady power supply in Nigeria, production will be simple and cheaper. That becomes our major challenge. Once that is taken care off, then phone manufacturers will start producing in Nigeria and the prices will drastically come down.
That takes me to the perception of the public that Tecno products are fake phones. What is the true position of this brand in the market?
We brought Tecno into Nigeria in 2006 from Hong Kong. It is essentially a low quality phone designed for low income earners.