‘No reasons given yet for resignation’

BlackBerry India Managing Director Sunil Dutt’s decision to resign at a time when the handset maker is in the process of rolling out its flagship product could act as a dampener to the initial gains made by the company.

The Canadian phone maker had launched the Z10 smartphone on February 25 in India based on the new BlackBerry 10 operating system, widely believed to be the make-or-break product for the phone maker. The initial response from consumers has made BlackBerry raise its sales forecast by 40 per cent. The next phone based on BB10 is expected to be launched in April.

Therefore, Dutt’s exit could not have been more poorly timed, and has led to speculation of things not working out between him and the Canadian management. “The timing is clearly not right although internally we haven’t yet been given any reason for Dutt’s resignation. It sends out wrong signals but we will have to live through it,” said an executive who reported to Dutt.

No impact on sales

Individuals close to Dutt said he has been planning to exit for a while but wanted to see through the initial launch. “Plans related to the launch and rollout for the next year have been put in place. So there should not be any impact on BB10 sales,” said another company executive, on condition of anonymity.

The success of BB10 devices is crucial to the company’s survival as it face stiff competition from Samsung, Nokia and Apple. Some rival players likened Dutt’s exit to that of a captain leaving a sinking ship. But BlackBerry executives said the handset company is going full steam ahead, riding on the initial success of its new devices.

Dutt, an old-timer in the mobile industry with earlier stints in Samsung and Nokia, was appointed in December 2011 to head BlackBerry’s India operations. This was after the then Managing Director Frenny Bawa quit in order to “pursue other interests”. 

But unlike Bawa, whose exit came close on heels of BlackBerry facing flak from scores of subscribers over a three-day blackout of services worldwide, including in India, Dutt’s resignation comes when the company is on a high.

Game-changer

Speaking to Business Line, Dutt had recently said that the BB10 devices were the biggest launch ever for the company and that they will be a game-changer in the smartphone segment. But the game will now be led by someone else.

Rick Costanzo, Executive Vice-President for Global Sales, will take over leadership of the management team in India as the company starts the search for a new sales lead.  “India is an extremely important market for BlackBerry and our aim is to continue to build on our recent momentum with the launch of BB10,” said a company statement.

Thomas.thomas@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on March 9, 2013)
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