Techbox, a retail kiosk selling mobile devices, seeks to educate Filipino consumers on the importance of buying genuine gadgets and accessories.
From its inception as a mobile phone exhibit offering brands such as Lenovo, Nokia and HTC in Alphaland in Pasong Tamo, Makati City on November 21, 2012, Techbox has now become a one-stop shop offering original with seven-day replacement and one-year warranty handsets, and accessories.
“We want to help the government in their fight against gray units,” said Denmark Desolo, Operations Head of Techbox. “We want to impart to our customers that they are buying generally quality, one-year warranty gadgets in our growing number of stores. They will be assured that the gadgets (in our stores) are original and came directly from the manufacturers.”
Gray units or white box handsets are mobile phones bought in secondhand shops or in small gadget stalls found in Greenhills and Makati Cinema Square shopping centers. This market hits its peak in 2011 when a total of 250 million units of handsets were put into trade that year. However, it dropped significantly to 220 million units since 2012 and shall continue with the downward trend with an estimated decline in the number of units to 175 million worldwide.
Gray unit market offers low-cost but low-quality gadgets that make it attractive for mobile phone consuming public. Consumers would be enticed to buy a knock-off item if they consider the big difference in unit price. However, in terms of quality, the durability of these items is not a guaranty for a long-term basis.
Another problem that hounds the retail industry is the selling of counterfeit or pirated accessories such as protective cases and battery packs. Knock-off and off-production batteries can be dangerous as they contain combustible and explosive materials that might explode while charging, causing harm to the users. There are also batteries that claimed to be lithium polymer but on the contrary, these are made up of different material and technology altogether.
According to the company, perceived savings from buying pirated and counterfeit products is only temporary. “The mean time before failure is shorter and the replacement time for the consumer is a lot faster due to the sub-par quality of these products. Worse, they do not provide the same protection and performance that the originals can assure. Therefore, it is costlier in the medium to long-run,” says Angela Gutierrez, Techbox Business Unit Head.
Gutierrez claimed that those suspiciously cheap iPhones and Samsung Galaxy handsets flooding in the market are of poor signal quality. “You buy phones to be able to communicate. Poor signal means poor communication and in the end, the user does not get his money’s worth,” she said.
To ensure the quality of the products they will carry, Techbox strives to get to know the suppliers beforehand, including the country of origin, and test the products for some time before ordering for distribution. It also checks the other vendors of the product, if there’s any, in the Philippines as well as in other markets.
Besides, the health of the users and the care of the environment are at stake if knock-offs are being used. “All of the gray market units that we see pose a great risk to our health in terms of the radio frequencies they emit,” Gutierrez said. “Substandard batteries and chargers can harm the environment and their users.”
Regarding prices, the company pointed out that theirs is competitive when compared with genuine and authentic competing products. “We try to adhere to the SRP set by the manufacturer in the region. We also try to provide one of the highest values for money propositions for mobile accessories.”
The company also advises consumers to buy their gadgets and accessories from a reputable retailer to avoid dealing with knock-off items. To spot a knock-off product, read all the tech reviews from local and foreign sources. Warranties provided for knock-offs are extremely short, between three to six months. Examine the quality and consistency of the product packaging for authentication marks, usually holographic seals. Fake gadgets are usually manufactured with substandard components.
Currently, Techbox offers Lenovo, Nokia, LG, HTC gadgets and TIM (Technology in Motion) accessories in 19 stores. The company has put up stores in secondary malls like Isetann Recto and Northwest Caloocan. In its desire to serve more customers, Techbox has opened stores in PuregoldBalilbago in Sta. Rosa City, Antipolo City and Calamba City, Laguna; Starmall in EDSA and Bulacan; Riverbanks in Marikina City’ and Tutuban Mall.
Techbox is also aiming to expand operations in the Greater Manila area with other brands of gadgets and accessories and other products to offer and by next year, it is targeting to put up stores in the Northern and Southern Luzon. The company also has plans to put up stores in SM department stores situated in the Visayas and Mindanao in the future. It will also offer handsets through its Web site soon.
Knowing and understanding the needs and wants of their customers is of utmost importance for Techbox. For the Christmas season, the company is not only providing genuine handsets and one-year warranty for its gadgets, it will also give away anti-bacterial micro-fiber wipes for gadgets for free.
Looking ahead, Techbox is eyeing a futuristic vision where customers can buy cellphones without paying cash. “We want our future service to be the first in the industry where a customer can buy a cellphone without using his credit card or paying in cash. All he has to do is just present a phone to acquire a unit,” Desolo notes.
“We want this kind of innovative environment or facility in our stores. Service-wise, we want to be the first in the industry to offer out-of-the-box services, and quality-wise, we’ll offer the best our customers could avail so they can get their money’s worth,” he added