His former employer is first in the senors market, but Maxcom’s boss says that’s going to change
“I want to make Maxcom a major player in the UK. That’s what this is all about and that’s what I’m aiming to do.”
That was the strong message from Maxcom UK and Ireland country manager Chris Millington who sat down with Mobile News to reveal his plans and ambitions for the new challenger in the grand arena that is the UK mobile market.
He is also aiming to mount a challenge to his former employer – senior mobiles and services specialist Doro – which, he claims, is the only real challenge in the UK market for senior specific devices. Millington outlined his ambition to take a piece of the Swedish manufacturer’s market share.
Looking at Doro’s shipment figures for 2015, the Swedish manufacturer moved 750,000 products globally and claims to be market leader in the UK.
Maxcom is looking to take a 30 per cent chunk of that figure in the next 12 to 18 months of its UK charge which would, according to Millington, make Maxcom a “strong second” in the seniors mobile market.
Millington is a 25-year industry veteran who had stints at Kenwood, Sony and most recently for senior device and services specialist Doro, departing last year after serving for more than 20 years as UK managing director.
He was headhunted by Polish mobile manufacturer and distributor Maxcom in June 2017 when he confirmed his departure to Mobile News.
He’s charged with the promotion, sales and management of Maxcom in the UK.
You won’t find many in the UK channel who know the name Maxcom, but the Polish vendor has been in the telecommunications and technology industry since 2003, the past nine years developing mobiles. It shipped 1.5 million mobiles in central and eastern Europe last year.
The brand holds prestige with its operator partnerships with all four major Polish operators – Orange, Plus, T-Mobile and Play. Internationally, it partners with MVNOs as well as MNOs – Telemach (Slovenia), Telekom Slovenije (Slovenia), Telenor (Norway), Bazile Telecom, T-Mobile, Orange and Velcom.
For its 2017 fiscal year ending in December, the Maxcom Group reported more than £23 million in revenue for 2017, up half a million year on year (2016: £22.5m).
The figure for 2016 was more than double what was taken in 2015 (£10.4m). Net profit in 2017 stood at £1.8m, down from £2.5m YoY. Profit in 2015 was only £829k but then more than doubled.
Maxcom produces not only mobiles but also fixed lines, wearables, electric scooters, mobile accessories, sat navs, and even baby monitors.
You’ll be able to search for Maxcom products through well-known retailers such as Amazon, Argos and Laptops Direct.
The former holds the widest portfolio of Maxcom mobiles and even fixed lines and a wearable. Tech Data and Nimans will distribute Maxcom handsets in the UK.
The company is right at the very beginning of its UK market push, having yet to establish a UK base. Currently Maxcom UK is a two- man band including Millington, but the team will grow slowly as required, said Millington.
Maxcom’s first steps to becoming a major UK player is to push devices into more retailers and build the presence of the brand. The aim by the end of the year is to secure one operator ranging deal and be ranged by the majority of UK retailers in order for Maxcom’s debut year to be a successful one.
But Millington realises it will be a steady journey for the vendor, which has little to no brand presence on these shores.
“I would hope we’ll be in the majority of main mass market retailers. Whether we get any of the products into the network by that time or not might be a little bit too early to say. I’m looking to get into one operator by Christmas,” said Millington.
“I built Doro’s proposition to the retailer strategy. I understand which part of the jigsaw I need before I can start putting all the other elements in later.
Hopefully that experience gets me in the door with retailers. However, Maxcom has to prove itself at being able to provide something unique or alternative.
Retailers demand the need to save costs and add additional value, while bringing something they don’t have to their portfolio.
“The Maxcom proposition is more expansive. Doro is focused exclusively on seniors but Maxcom isn’t. There are other products in the portfolio that can reach a broader audience that will enable me to drive the brand in a slightly different way and help networks and retailers find some different products to sell.”
Millington recognises the dominant position Doro is currently in as he was at the helm for the past few years and held senior positions in it formative years in the UK.
“Doro literally occupies 100 per cent, which is partly due to there being hardly any other players. That’s part of the appeal of why I joined Maxcom – it’s not impossible to challenge in the UK senior space.
“When asked me to join, I thought, “Okay, I have done this for a brand before and brought it into that dominant brand position”. Doro is only dominant in the UK, but nowhere else except its native Sweden.
In France, Germany and Spain it has maybe around 30pc. Coming to the UK, it managed to sell those products against the same competition with the products and prices. Over time in the UK competition pulled out and weren’t able to compete with Doro at the time.”
In mobiles Maxcom manufactures feature phones, smartphones and rugged devices. For now, Maxcom will release and promote six brand new feature phones in the UK, with more to come in Q4 this year.
Millington believes Maxcom offers a unique proposition to customers and retailers through high quality and excellent design, which offers Maxcom a better chance in the mainstream feature phone arena, unlike Doro, going against the likes of the Nokia 3310.
In October, Maxcom will release a new senior-focused smartphone with an age barrier-breaking design.
Millington refused to disclose more about the device, stating that due to Maxcom being listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange the device needs to be vetted there first before a wider announcement.
Maxcom have similar devices and features such as enhanced loudspeakers and big buttons, but Millington says the design of the devices are more geared to mainstream audiences and doesn’t scream, “Hey, old person”.
The Comfort range has senior-specific features such as an enhanced loudspeaker and big buttons, while the Classic range takes on a modern design.
“What Maxcom gives networks and retailers the opportunity to do is think outside the box and add something into their range that doesn’t necessarily shout, “Hey, older person” but offers
simplicity at the same time. It has all the characteristics of a senior device but it doesn’t look like one. It has a broader opportunity.
“I was looking around in terms of other products that could be comparable. There’s an old Nokia out there that has a three inch screen on a feature phone with a 5MP camera.
Even the second-hand ones are selling at £80, and what we have here are brand new feature phones for £80 or less,” said Millington.
The seniors mobile space is different now and Millington claims Doro, during his time there, established the segment, an experience he described as a “living nightmare” at “ground zero”.
Now that the seniors market is a established one, Millington reckons there’s room for competition from the likes of Maxcom, now that ageist opinions have been proven wrong.
“When I was at Doro and launched the first senior mobile the market didn’t exist, we had to create it. The job was to find a few retailers to sell and market the products in the right way.
“Once established in a few retailers such as Argos and Amazon and specialist retailers such as Action Hearing Loss, then you find yourself a network operator to trial it and then build form there.
“Eventually all network and key mobile retailers will come onboard. It seems like magic that I am doing the same thing again.
“For Doro it was a nightmare trying to establish the seniors market, people simply didn’t believe it was a profitable market with volumes to drive.
“They didn’t take it seriously and I remember being told many times, “Clamshells are dead”. It is now the number one format by an absolute mile. I also heard it said that “Old people don’t buy phones”. Oh yes they do.
“It was an ageist issue we had to overcome as well as convincing the retailers and operators there was an opportunity here.”
Although he and Maxcom now face less of a mountain, there’s still the matter of Maxcom being a completely new entity in the UK market. Its debut and growth will be slow, compared to the debut of HMD Global, the holder of the luminary Nokia brand.
“Absolutely our biggest challenge will be to get the known in the UK market. Taking a brand form zero to something is not easy, but I’ve done it before. First, we need the right retail partners and distribution strategy to make this work.
“Once this is more established we’ll start using PR, getting the reviews in and then have some from of marketing strategy which will obviously be funded by the revenue and growth of the business.”