Following its introduction to the South African market last year, Honor, the smartphone sub-brand of the Huawei Group, is expanding its channel partner network.
This is according to Raymond Liu Jianbo, Honor CEO, revealing the smartphone brand will be available at Vodacom stores plus some retailers owned by The Foschini Group (TFG) and Edcon.
When Honor arrived in SA last year April, it introduced two new devices, the Honor 7X and Honor 9 Lite smartphones, which it said would be available on Takealot.com. The Honor 8X device made its debut in December.
This week, the brand's latest smartphone, the Honor 10 Lite, will enter the South African market via an expanded channel network, with the option to purchase devices both offline and online.
Jianbo, who arrived last September to steer the Honor ship in SA, told ITWeb the team was motivated to partner with the specific companies because the network includes thousands of stores across the country. "The 27th of March is the official launch. The product will only be available in stores at the beginning of April."
It will take a couple of days to move from the warehouse to stores as that depends on the location, Jianbo continues.
Online vs offline
Honor first made its debut in 2013 as an independent sub-brand of the Chinese electronics giant that was available through online platforms, mainly motivated by China's uptake of the e-commerce market. Later, the Honor brand started to slowly add offline options in certain territories where it operates.
Since its debut six years ago, the brand sold over 66 million devices worldwide, and managed to climb up to the number seven spot in terms of smartphone rankings, according to GfK estimates.
The few products Honor introduced to the South African market were also first made available online, a move synonymous with Honor when the brand enters a specific market.
However, by the end of last year, Honor-branded devices could also be purchased offline at Foschini stores, according to Jianbo.
The CEO explains this was part of the process to spread Honor's wings and distinguish it as a standalone brand from Huawei.
"Normally, we would have a separate team and separate business operation for the Huawei and Honor brand. However, at the beginning of last year, everything was still under the same umbrella. For example, the same team and same business operations; there was no separation."
Honor's move away from the Huawei umbrella kicked-off at the end November last year, he states, cemented by its partnership with some TFG stores.
"The business growth within the Foschini Group was quite significant. Although the total amount is still very small, because that was only one channel, we believe launching through companies such as Vodacom will improve our prospects," notes Jianbo.
Honor and Huawei operating as separate entities brings up the issue that two brands from the "same family" will end up competing with each other.
Addressing this issue earlier this year, Akhram Mohammed, product marketing director for Huawei SA, said there is only a certain amount of appetite for one single brand.
Mohammed pointed out they are aware Honor might take a portion of Huawei's market share, but it will also take a considerable amount from the other competitors.
Therefore, the loss Huawei will feel as a standalone brand will be completely outweighed by what Honor brings in, he stated. "While we operate as separate entities from marketing and operations, we are actually one family and we support Honor and vice-versa. We have the same agenda."
Commenting on Honor's future business prospects in SA, Jianbo says the plan is to hopefully enter into the top four or even top three smartphone brands in the next two to three years.
Samsung, Huawei and Apple are currently the top three smartphone brands in the world.
Cracking the top three is his ambition, he states. "It's a challenging target because it means I have to pull down someone from top three, which can be Samsung, Huawei and Apple. Obviously, I don't target to pull down my brother. So someone will be unlucky.
"With good products and strong determination in the local market, although it's very challenging, I'm confident we will reach that level in the next two to three years."
In terms of expanding Honor to the rest of the continent, it is only available in SA at the moment, and Jianbo says this can be his next step.
The first step is to have a solid footprint in SA, he concludes. "I have big ambition...This year, simply put, is for survival. No matter how big your ambition is, if you don't survive for the first year, then everything is just a dream."