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Hi-Tech in Shenzhen

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Hi-Tech in Shenzhen

Partnership yields dividends

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 May, 2016, 12:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 May, 2016, 3:31pm

A small team of French hardware designers and entrepreneurs arrived in Shenzhen in 2011 with the intention of producing their own smartphone.

Rather than investing money and taking five years to design their phone from scratch, they joined up with a local original equipment manufacturer (OEM) producer.

This led to a partnership with Tinno, a large Shenzhen telecommunications company that produces 25 to 30 million phones a year. Tinno became a 90 per cent majority partner, agreeing to do most of the design and manufacturing in Shenzhen, and then shipping them to France.

This was the start of Wiko, one of Europe's most popular mobile phone brands. When the first Wiko phone was released in France in 2012 it was an instant success.

Being marketed as a "French" phone that was "defined and cultivated in France, providing a French inspiration and vision" in its marketing material, it sold in huge quantities. However, for most consumers, it was the price rather than the branding that was the attraction.

"Most of my friends have no idea that Wiko is even a French company. We just buy their phones because they are the cheapest," says a French Wiko user Pierre Laurent. "Seriously, my phone only cost €97 [HK$865]. There is no other phone that even comes close to that price." Wiko is expanding across Europe and Southeast Asia.

The brand sold 8 million phones last year alone and aim to double this by the end of 2016.

The partnership is an example of what can happen when Shenzhen hi-tech manufacturers and Western brands leverage their respective advantages.