Panasonic Targets Emerging Markets for Smartphone Comeback, Launching Smartphones in Africa in October


Panasonic is a global electronics brand that has so far failed to capitalize on the burgeoning smartphone. It has attempted, on several occasions, to enter the global smartphone with no success.

Losses made Panasonic exit the global mobile phone market a decade ago. Its last efforts to make a comeback 7 year after calling it quits in mobile resulted in it making losses totaling $45 million and, as a result, swore to leave the global smartphone market alone. It has since disappeared from the global scene but kept a relatively low profile in its home market, Japan, where it has continued releasing several feature devices and India where it has been pushing low-cost smartphones. Its mobile appetite is very much alive and it has managed to release devices like the world’s first 20 inch 4K Windows 8 tablet, the Panasonic Toughpad UT-MB5.

After that self-imposed sabbatical off the market, Panasonic is keen on making a serious comeback to the smartphone market. Instead of a global focus, however, it is keen on a handful of markets in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Panasonic believes that it can successfully tap into the market everyone is after: the Indian smartphone market. Smartphone users in India are expected to hit the 168 million mark this year and Panasonic has seen its market share in that country rise by 3% according to the Economic Times of India. It is now targeting the top smartphone brands in India led by Samsung and several homegrown brands like Micromax, Karbonn and Intex.

In the Middle East, Panasonic is expected to avail its smartphones in Dubai, Iran and Saudi Arabia in a week’s time. The company has already introduced its smartphones in Sri Lanka and Nepal. On the African continent, South Africa will be the first country to get Panasonic smartphones in October. This will be overseen by the Panasonic Marketing Middle East & Africa FZE (PMMAF) team, a Dubai-based subsidiary of Panasonic Corporation Japan, that was also responsible for the recent push into the East African region.

Interestingly, with the exception of South Africa, Iran and Saudi Arabia, all the countries that Panasonic is eyeing are where Google has already introduced its own low-cost smartphones in conjunction with its partners under the Android One program. India got Android One first before the program expanded into nearby Nepal and Sri Lanka. The United Arab Emirates is the latest to join the Android One bandwagon with the Infinix Hot 2 smartphone which was introduced into the market just a week ago. The same smartphone is currently on sale under the program in several African countries.

It will be interesting to see if Panasonic can build on the gains it has made in the Indian market and translate them into successes not just in India but also in other markets and the overall impact its “re-entry” into the very competitive smartphone market makes.