ZTE UK's director of mobile device operations Wu Sa speaks impeccable English, pausing now and then to find the precise word to explain elements of the Chinese manufacturer’s UK strategy.
His forensic attention to detail mirrors ZTE’s approach to the UK market, where the Chinese manufacturer is launching a carefully planned assault on the UK smartphone market as part of its wider global ambitions.
Its campaign is gathering momentum. By the end of this year ZTE will have launched a total of 20 ZTE handsets in the UK. This includes five white label smartphones, three own-brand smartphones and one Android tablet.
ZTE’s tablet will land in Q4 along with its third own-brand smartphone and another two white label devices.
Wu Sa says the UK market is central to ZTE’s global strategy to double the number of smartphones sold globally from five million in the first half of this year to 10 million in the second half of 2011.
He says: ‘The UK is a key driver of that growth. This year we will have launched eight smartphones into the UK market alone. That includes smartphones on both Android and Windows platforms and covers our two strategies of white label and OEM.’
Wu Sa says ZTE’s move into own-brand devices is the cornerstone of the company’s business development.
‘It is an indication of the level of market demand for this type of product and services,’ he adds.
Does that mean ZTE will eventually follow HTC in abandoning white label phones in favour of own-brand devices?
Wu Sa is diplomatic in his choice of words. He says: ‘We support our partners and we will continue to support our partners’ strategies. We believe ZTE can achieve where it wants to be in the own-branded market as a strong supporter of its partners’ ODM strategies.
‘However, despite the difficult economic circumstances, in this market we have noticed a strong and increasing demand for own-branded devices, not just in the operator markets but also in the open market.’
Wu Sa attributes this rising demand to ZTE’s ability to bring smartphones with ‘a higher spec to the masses’.
He adds: ‘Our products are appropriately priced and in line with customer expectations, which were previously restricted to a smaller segment of the population.’
Wu Sa explains: ‘ZTE’s global aspiration is to be one of the top three smartphone manufacturers by 2015. Our white label products have been very successful but now the market is demanding more (own-branded) products like ZTE. At the same time white label products only cover certain segments of the market, so our own-branded products have increased our portfolio and allow us to play a more active role in other segments.’
But can ZTE meet this growing demand? Rapid growth can cause log jams, as experienced by rival HTC as demand took off.
Wu Sa is confident ZTE can deliver. He says: ‘We have the logistics capability to supply large scale business delivery in the UK and in other major countries. We have done that at the same time as there has been massive demand for ZTE products developing in North America, as well as renewed demand domestically in China. Our partners recognise our supply chain management capabilities.’
However, he does not rule out widening ZTE’s distribution channels in the UK. Brightpoint currently handles ZTE’s UK distribution. Asked if ZTE could take on other distributors, he says: ‘We are certainly looking at increasing the demand in the market and also to meet the increasing market demand for ZTE products.’
ZTE tablet on the way
ZTE is setting its sights on the tablet market, launching an own-brand Android tablet in the UK in Q4.
‘We certainly see strategic value in the sector. ZTE is already one of the main providers of tablets to the global market. Tablets are a very dynamic market, not only for ZTE but also for a lot of our partners who are very keen to develop this proposition. However, what is important is that our first tablet launch is a success,’ says Wu Sa.
The tablet will launch exclusively with one of ZTE’s network partners.