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Nokia Vice President launches MiDCOM in Uganda

NOKIA International’s Senior Vice President, Timo Toikannen together with a delegation from the Nokia headquarters, will today, officially launch the MiDCOM brand in Uganda.

The cocktail event will take place at 7.00 pm, at the MiDCOM premises on Acacia Avenue in Kololo, Kampala. It will be attended by about 400 guests including industry representatives and members of the business community, distributors, government and foreign dignitaries and MiDCOM partners.

Other notable faces include Nokia Face of Africa finalist, Munira Namakula and Iryn Namubiru, who will sing for the crowd. Akash Kumar, the General Manager says MiDCOM is an authorized distributor of Nokia mobile handsets and accessories in Uganda. He says their official launch also coincides with their eighth month of operation in Uganda.

He explains that MiDCOM would like to use the opportunity of the launch to define its intended role to the public as a provider of original Nokia phones at the most competitive prices, and as a strong partner to everyone in the business including distributors, retailers and the walk-in individuals.

A billboard advertising Nokia phones with MiDCOM as the authorized dealer was on display.

Akash also mentions that MiDCOM has since established itself as the top provider of customer care.

“Our Nokia authorized customer care centre in Uganda is a very big asset; it gives a one year warranty on all the Nokia handsets purchased from MiDCOM and also provides phone repair services,” he says.

He says MiDCOM, a part of Midland group ventured in Uganda after similar successful operations in Rwanda, where they have distributed original Nokia phones since last year.

“We have been in Uganda for hardly a year, but we have already performed quite well. Before we came in, we asked Nokia to add value to the Nokia brand in Uganda. We were permitted operations in January and took off operations in March 2006. We started with a blasting entry and our impact has already been felt,” Akash notes.

Akash says their price penetration strategy at the start has greatly paid off. He points out that they were the first ever to retail the Nokia 1100 model under five figures when MiDCOM advertised it at sh99,900. He says they have since converted non-users to users, with affordable phones like the Nokia 1600 at sh129,000 and the 1100i trading at sh89,900.

“We studied the market in Uganda and discovered it reacts much to price changes, so we decided to make our original Nokia phones affordable. Since Nokia pays our Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) charges, we have a slight advantage over others and see no reason, why we don’t make our phones affordable,” he says.

He explains that because of their affordable phone prices, they are slowly but steadily eliminating the 'grey market'. He notes that briefcase phone dealers, who constitute a bigger percentage of the grey market, have since realized the high risks and low returns involved in smuggling the phones. Most of these now buy their phones from MiDCOM, Kumar notes.

He says with such positive patterns, smuggling has gone down and there is a more organized set up. He says more taxes are now coming in from the genuine dealers who pay 18% VAT.

Kumar foresees MiDCOM getting fully established into a recognizable brand in one year alone.

“It is not yet a year but our revolution on the Ugandan market has already been felt by the public and those at the Nokia headquarters. They, (Nokia Headquarters) have asked us to take over operations in Tanzania and we shall establish there soon,” he reveals.

He says their long-term strategy is to stamp out the grey market dealers and turn them into priority dealers, a feat that will conspire to even reduce the cost of telephony. To date, MiDCOM has over, 250 priority dealers throughout the country, with the number increasing by the day.

Kumar says that as a means to create consumer awareness and permeate the market, they have embarked on aggressive marketing strategies. Last Thursday, MiDCOM and Celtel Uganda launched a sh100m, promotion dubbed, ‘Embrace this season. Embrace the spirit of East Africa,’ which will have customers of MiDCOM and Celtel who fully connected Nokia phones at nearest Celtel shops or MiDCOM Priority dealers countrywide.

Weekly draws will be held in selected locations countrywide for eight weeks starting Friday, November 10 to January 2007.

“We are proud to be associated with the leading East African telecommunications network,” says Kumar.

© Midcom Group.