In a bid to stay relevant in the smartphone segment, Canadian handset-maker BlackBerry recently launched its first Android phone PRIV in India. Priced at ₹62,990, the device is clearly targeted at high-end users. Speaking to BusinessLine , BlackBerry India’s recently appointed Managing Director Narendra Nayak talked about how he expects Android to bring back BlackBerry’s device business to life in India, where it holds less than 1 per cent market share. Edited excerpts:
Analyst say that the launch of Android phone is a last ditch effort by BlackBerry to stay relevant in the smartphone segment. Would you agree?
When we did a market study, we found an un-served need in the market for a segment of consumers who were looking for a lot of features that BlackBerry brought with its heritage such as security, privacy and productivity and yet wanted the versatility and openness that an Android platform provides. PRIV is a true marriage between these two needs in the market.
Our strategy is to serve this segment of the users. This segment I believe will be in the range of mid and high-end segment of phones from a price perspective. We'll, however, have follow up launches at slightly lower price points.
I think end of the day we don't need to address every segment of the market. We are addressing the power user for whom security, mobility, privacy and productivity are important.
What happens to the BB10 platform as you move towards Android?
We are committed to both BlackBerry operating system and Android.
A few days ago we launched an update to BB10. There will be ongoing launches for BB10 versions and phones.
With a multi-platform strategy, can we expect BlackBerry to come up with a Windows Phone in the future?
As a company we moved to a multi-platform strategy. If you look at our enterprise software, they run across Windows, iOS, BlackBerry and Android. On device side as well that's broadly the goal — we'll obviously not have iOS on the device side but as of now it’ll be BlackBerry OS and Android to give a choice to our customers.
At this point we do not have any plans for a Windows Phone.
You've just completed three months as BlackBerry India MD. What are your immediate areas of focus?
These are very exciting times for BlackBerry, especially in India. One of the biggest challenges for us is the stagnation of BlackBerry enterprise business here.
We are working on a completely new go-to-market strategy, which will include building a new channel, a sales team and working with carriers.
That's going to be the large part of my task this year.
Is BBM still relevant given that WhatsApp, Hike and others have gained so much traction in India?
BBM has not done well in India to be honest. There are markets where BBM is a leader in the messaging space. Even today there are tens of thousands of BBM activations happening in some countries. But in India we have not seen any traction for BBM at all.
On one hand you announce a series of measures on the enterprise segment and on the other come up with an Andorid phone after such a long gap. It sounds like a confused strategy!
BlackBerry was primarily positioned as a smartphone company but today our software is completely platform agnostic. It is multi-operating system. Today, BlackBerry has three business units — the device business, which is now an independent business unit.
We also carved out Enterprise Software as a separate business unit, which does a lot more than just enterprise mobility.
There is a third business unit called the BlackBerry Technology Solutions, which focuses on some niche areas such as QNX operating system and emerging areas such as IoT and security.
The device business so far had only BB10 devices and I feel with the launch of Android devices, we'll be back in the growth area.
On the software side, last one year has been around building a strong portfolio of products, tied around providing secure mobile communications. Our recent acquisitions have now been integrated and 2016 is really going to be the year when we see a lot of growth in the business. We are also beginning to have early-stage conversations around IoT or QNX in the Indian market.