attention of IT giant Lenovo, and the company is keeping a close watch on the burgeoning market for easy-to-use devices that provide all the benefits of converged technology.
“There is no doubt about it,” says the company’s General Manager – Africa, Graham Braum, “the desire of customers to have devices that allow integration and seamless transition between the social and business demands of their lives is driving change like we have never seen it before.” Long revered for its high levels of innovation and customer centricity in the enterprise environment, Lenovo has in recent years renewed its focus in the consumer space. It is currently on the cusp of rolling out new devices (indeed it is already happening in some markets) which it believes will slingshot it to the front of the PC+ market.
Finding the Balance
Braum describes Lenovo’s current approach as ‘Protect & Attack’. On the one hand, the company is looking to entrench its position in the enterprise environment, and, on the other, is aggressively pursuing those opportunities it sees opening up in the consumer space. “There are some really interesting developments taking place in the consumer space that we believe we can capitalise on,” reveals Braum. “For instance, the technology-adoption growth rates amongst the 60-plus age group and the enormous increase in technology usage amongst females.”
The high adoption rates amongst baby boomers, driven by a myriad of social, political and economic changes around the globe, have not only opened up an opportunity for device manufacturers, but have also highlighted the need for manufacturers to understand the specific demand in each market segment. With major research centres in Japan, China and the United States, Lenovo has the necessary resource base to refine its product offerings. “From our perspective, the 60-plus age group wants simplicity of use – they don’t want to fiddle with small screens, and they want devices that give them an all-in-one multimedia experience,” shares Braum.
The demands made by women – the other high-technology adoption market – are significantly different. In this space, cutting-edge technology has become synonymous with high fashion and Lenovo has realised that looks, combined with the availability of top-class accessories, count for a lot in this segment. The introduction of the Yoga convertible notebook (allowing for tent and stand mode) is representative of the type of plays Lenovo will be making in this market. The product is by no means a ‘women only’ offering, but there can be no denying that its light weight, handy dimensions, funky colours and accessory range all point to a definite nod in the direction of the increasing buying power of women in this segment.
Braum is quick to point out that, while Lenovo is looking to offer more stylish products, it’s not sacrificing any of its technological prowess simply to be trendy. “Presently, it’s all about packaging and making our technology accessible. With the female segment of the market replacing their devices every 10 to 12 months (compared with three years for their male counterparts), it makes sense for us to offer them appealing alternatives.”
While much of its new product roll-out is centred in Russia, China (where Lenovo is currently number 2 in the smartphone market) and Indonesia, it has not ignored Africa and has big plans for the continent. “Our entire product range will eventually find its way to South Africa and the rest of the continent. We focus on launching new products in China and other eastern regions because it helps us to fine-tune our supply chain. This means that, by the time we go global, everything is in place and customers benefit from the best systems and manufacturing processes possible,” explains Braum.
Bringing the benefits of Lenovo products to African markets is high on the agenda for the company. The continent has seen a lot of development within the information and communications technology (ICT) sector in recent years, and, as broadband services become more accessible, the demand by consumers to connect with the digital world will show strong growth. The company is looking to capitalise on some of its traditional strengths on the continent, such as a reputation for ruggedness and reliability. It also believes that the use of new technology, such as batteries that will give you an 85% charge in just 35 minutes, will find enormous favour in energy-constrained regions.
“In Africa, our approach is one of ‘country by country’ – each nation has its own priorities and the development of their ICT sector is often aligned with this,” notes Braum. “There is no doubt that tremendous development has already taken place, and the possibility for technology to play an even greater empowering role in a field such as education is something that really excites us and is the type of space where we want to be active.” Last but not least, Lenovo is of the opinion, like many of the analysts, that tablets and smartphones will be very good tools for the next wave of consumers and end users in Africa, and is investing heavily in the MIDH (Mobile Internet and Digital Home) arena to make sure that it can fuel this expected growth with a wide range of products in this segment.
Lenovo in Search of New Frontiers
Corporate strategists at the world’s leading information technology (IT) companies have had a lot to ponder on in recent years. The rise of social media, the emergence of the ‘bring your own device’ brigade, unprecedented demand for products in emerging economies, and the entrance of new competitors have all added complexity to the business landscape.
While there is certainly a lot to digest, there can be no getting away from a simple truism – give customers what they want, and they will purchase your products. This fact has not escaped the
IDEATE | BRICS
by Valdi Pereira