Oman is the fastest growing market for smartphones in the GCC region with 65 per cent users switching to these devices, according to Ashrf Fawakherji, vice-president, Middle East, for Huawei.
“Three years ago, the switch from feature phones to smartphones started in Oman and many principals were surprised at the faster rate of switch to a smartphone here,” he told Gulf News on the sidelines of the launch of Huawei smartphones for the first time in Oman.
He said that a sellout audit of the retail market in Oman indicates that 65 per cent of the total mobile phone users own smartphones in the Sultanate.
He agreed that the volume could be higher in Saudi Arabia, but added: “When it comes to investment from the principals, Oman is a unique story as far as smartphones are concerned, the growth is the fastest in the region.”
“Although a young brand, Huawei’s consumer device portfolio is growing rapidly over the past several years in the Middle East,” he said.
Appeal among youth
About launching the 4G LTE smartphone — Ascend P2 — in Oman, Fawakherji said that although the technology was not widely made available by operators yet, the youth in Oman would accept it faster. “Oman has a strong young customer base and 4G is more acceptable to that age category,” he said.
“In Oman, customers have an open mind. So, they look at, evaluate and then decide to buy a handset,” he added.
When asked about Huawei’s target for market share in Oman, he said: “We don’t have any specific target, we have to first get the basics right, make our product interesting, let consumers see the quality, let them see that the product has something different and then the sales numbers will come on their own.”
He agreed that the strong presence of Korean brands in the market has made competition healthy but said there was a huge opportunity for others as well. “The numbers have changed in the last three years. Those who were below the top five are among the top three brands in the market now. So, there’s opportunity for everyone,” he said, adding that they estimate an 80 per cent increase in smartphone users in Oman in the next 18 months.
He also said that GCC consumers were not price-conscious. “No one likes to be overpriced but the new trend is that consumer looks at the value for the product they are buying.”
He added that Huawei’s most recent growth within the Middle East market had helped the Chinese brand’s worldwide consumer business realise global sales revenue of $77 billion last year, an increase of over eight per cent year-on-year.
“We set aside 10 to 13 per cent of our revenue for R&D,” he said.
In Oman, Huawei have tied up with Adhwa Al Billa Trading (ABT) and opened five service centres across the country.