A mere coincidence? Former Apple CEO announces plan to break into the MENA market

A mere coincidence? Former Apple CEO announces plan to break into the MENA marketAnother new smartphone brand launch in the UAE and the region may seem par for the course, given how this territory has become an unmissable one for any manufacturer trying to build up a reputation and a sizable niche. But, with Obi Mobiles — which is now doing the spadework prior to the regional entry — it somehow seems more than just that.

The brand has been co-founded by former Apple CEO and ace marketer John Sculley. As if that detail were not enough, Sculley added a few more lines to the history books by firing Steve Jobs in 1985 from the company he founded. Sculley, who became CEO of Apple in 1983, held that position until 1993.

Now, as the primary backer and vocal proponent of Singapore headquartered Obi Mobiles, which was launched in India recently ahead of the rollout in other markets, Sculley will have to call on all his famed marketing skills all over again. In this region, by coincidence or otherwise, Obi and Apple’s very latest iPhone 6 could hit the stands at the same time, by later this month or early next.

But Sculley is not about to get into comparisons with anything that Apple might put out. “Obi will not be a premium priced luxury brand — We do not see Obi as competitive to iPhone at all as we will sell Obi devices at disruptive price points in the market where Apple has shown no interest in entering,” said Sculley in an emailed statement to Gulf News.

“It is just a coincidence that iPhone 6 launching in Mena [Middle East and North Africa] at the same time. We wish Apple much success in the premium mobile device market.”

But is there still enough space available for a new smartphone brand, even one targeted at a more price-conscious user base? The Chinese majors are muscling into this territory, going for a win share at any cost in their domestic territory as well as in India, Africa and other Far East markets.

Sculley reckons he has the blueprint to get Obi an even chance. “Mobile device technology is rapidly commoditising for best-in-class smartphones,” he said. “Which is why very disruptive price-points is key for success in emerging markets. At Obi, we will excel in brand positioning and consumer marketing.

“Also our Obi management team has extensive IT distribution and sales channel experience in emerging markets. We are brand builders and sales channel builders on a global scale. We can be profitable at more aggressive price points than other multinational brands as we use an Asian frugal expense model and excellent partner relationships.”

Headquartered in Singapore, Obi Mobiles is a venture promoted by Toronto-based Inflexionpoint, an IT supply chain company where Sculley is the co-founder. The global launch was done out of India in April.

“Having launched in India with a better-than-anticipated response has helped us set the pace for the Obi expansion,” Sculley said. “The Mena region presents a huge opportunity, with a huge margin of consumers in the mid- and affordable smartphone segments.”

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