Lessons on how to nurture that startup into a global brand

Prateek Suri, CEO of Dubai-based smart TV company, Maser. PHOTO | POOL

What comes to consumers’ minds when they see your brand? Well, it all depends on how that brand sits in the market compared to your competitors as well as the value they get and where they see your future.

Businesses can attempt to shape or form the branding of their company or products in many ways, including advertising, through media, word-of-mouth, and contact with your products or services.

But what if they want to take that brand to the international market?

"Like any long-distance relationship, it's got to be managed and needs more work than something you can see and physically touch, but it's not impossible," says Paul Williams, founder of the international marketing firm Idea Sandbox.

He adds that building a reputation in any new market involves a first impression, which comes from the initial interactions someone has with your company, products, and services.

“Ask your new market the questions you used to build your initial business plan. Ensure you can make your products reliably and consistently available to your new target markets," he says.

For instance, breaking into the African electronic market as a new brand was never easy for Prateek Suri but he has taken his brand to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Nigeria and Ghana. How did he do it?

The mechanical engineer from Delhi, India has been making moves to expand his business immediately after launching his Maser brand in his home city. Since 2014, he has been banking on quality and affordability – the two tenets of what he says are critical when entering the African market.

He started off with manufacturing and selling television sets but in recent years he has expanded to smart washing machines, music systems, air conditioners and wearables.

“I founded Maser in 2014 and has thrived through hard economic times brought by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. It has also established itself as a major participant in providing inexpensive products in India,” Mr Suri told Enterprise.

His entrepreneurial psyche has led him to also cross borders and invest in the Middle East aiming at meeting its electronic demand since according to him “there exists a market gap in this region due to the high prices of products.”

Hayes Roth, chief marketing officer for Landor Associate says while you focus on raising brand awareness, you need to be vigilant in maintaining your brand reputation in every market in which you sell.

"Remember, your brand is a promise. You're starting to make a promise that people are buying into and you need to deliver whatever that product or service is."

It has been a long, tough road for Mr Suri, 32, to the current point where his firm is becoming a global brand.

“It is never easy. I started thinking about owning an electronics business while in college. But I lacked sufficient capital. When I graduated, I had to work very hard to secure capital. Between 2010 and 2013 I was building the idea, then I launched in 2014,” he narrates.

When he decided to enter Africa in 2019, he chose Kenya as the entry point. He has since set aside a total amount of Sh30 billion to invest in both the Middle East and Africa. Sh10 billion has been invested in Ghana and Nigeria, tapping on the high population in West Africa.

Mr Suri last year signed a deal with a financing company in the United Kingdom, where Maser will invest 100 percent to boost its manufacturing capabilities and enable Maser to improve its services to its customers.

Speaking about less expensive products, he hints that a 50-inch LED smart TV will cost around Sh38,000 in Nigeria and other African countries like Kenya, and South Africa. Other brands sell the same at a price as high as Sh80,000.

His company is already selling products in Gambia, Senegal, Tanzania, and Malawi, adding that a huge amount of products will be available for sale in these countries.

“The market is very promising. I am already in close to ten African countries but the goal is to ensure every African has access to affordable and quality devices,” he says.

According to Roth, in branding, one bad customer experience often resonates longer than one good experience.

"One bad experience magnifies 100-fold. You need to have constant vigilance." That is one area Mr Suri has been keen about.

Maser’s main aim is to meet the increasing demand for their products in Africa and has increased the number of units to 600,000 in Nigeria alone. Suri is also expected to invest Sh2 billion in a manufacturing company in Nigeria a facility expected to produce wearable devices like smartwatches, headphones and Bluetooth speakers.

The firm intends to invest Sh3 billion in establishing a company that would give credit to Nigerian customers, as well as partnering with fintech firms to increase client lending.

“Most businesses cannot actualize their ideas because of capital crunches. Maser will help in setting up a company that offers liquid credit to distributors of electronics so they can also make profits,” he says.

To him, the future of Africa’s electronics market is rosy, as the continent’s average age is only 19 and will contribute to a huge demand for electronics in the coming decades.

Fortune Business Insights estimates that the global market size was Sh74 trillion in 2019 and is projected to reach Sh100 trillion by 2027.

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