The services on smartphones will be our differentiator: Nokia India head

Thomas K Thomas New Delhi | Updated on March 08, 2013 Published on March 08, 2013

P. Balaji, Managing Director of Nokia India

Democratisation of Internet and data is happening and we are at the forefront of making that happen.

Finnish handset maker Nokia has had a tough time taking on competition from the likes of Samsung and Apple.

Amidst falling market share, the handset maker has put its bets on Windows-run Lumia range at the high end and the Asha series for the affordable segment.

On top of it, Nokia has built a suite of services such as maps and music to set itself apart in a crowded market place.

In India too, the company has lost significant market share but the smartphone market is just beginning to take off giving Nokia a chance to turn it around.

Business Line met with P. Balaji, the recently appointed Managing Director of Nokia India, to know how the company plans to ride the smartphone boom waiting to happen in India.

You have just come in to head Nokia’s India operations. What’s your assessment of where the company is heading?

Over the last year, Nokia has shipped 14 million Lumia phones globally. So it’s been good response. We have launched eight phones over 16 months which is building up the Lumia range. If I look at affordable range, we have Asha.

We have launched nearly 15 phones in Asha series. Going forward, we are looking at a market where every third phone will be a smartphone and between Lumia and Asha we have a good portfolio.

Has Nokia brand taken a beating over the last year?

Brand has not been impacted despite the challenges we have faced. Our brand still ranks top whichever survey you take especially with the youth market.

Lumia is your flagship product range yet it is the Asha range which is selling more. How do you see this ?

It’s never been one versus the other. When we look at affordable smartphones, Asha has that appeal to customers because we are bringing Net connectivity, swipe user interface, map, music in a very compelling bundle to make us a serious player in the affordable segment.

Lumia comes in the high-end segment with Microsoft support.

We are investing strongly in both as it gives us a range of phones.

Nokia missed the dual-SIM phone segment initially. Do you now believe that you have the right product portfolio?

We have the right portfolio as far as India is concerned. Would any portfolio need to evolve? The answer is yes.

How are you creating differentiation in a crowded market ?

We are putting a lot of efforts on services. Our music service is the No. 1 with over 10 million downloads in India. we have 7.8 million songs in our catalogue. Many operators have signed up for operator billing. If you look at browsing experience not everyone has a 3G phone. Any technology takes time for adoption. In that context, we got Nokia browser wherein we are working with operators to customise the browser according to what they want to give to their users. In India, smartphone users spend two and a half hours on data usage. Now that number is going to increase. For us to bring those services and show what can be with the device is our differentiator. Democratisation of Internet and data is happening and we are at the forefront of making that happen.

A number of handset makers like HTC, Lenovo and BlackBerry have announced aggressive plans for India. What kind of market share would you target?

I won’t put numbers on the table because that will be decided by market place. But what we bring on the table is substantial. We need to keep pushing ourselves that will create differentiation over someone else. We have made significant investment on giving customers a good experience at the retail level. We are also seeing more investments on digital world. For example on Facebook, we are No.1 in the mobile category. You won’t see us doing front page ads like some of the competitors are doing. You will see us doing focussed activities at retail level, our investments has got more focussed to digital advertising.

Do you see any concerns at the policy level?

This is an industry which has an impact on digitalisation of India. In that context the VAT regime concerns us. Many States look at 14-15 per cent VAT rate.

That is spurring grey market. It doesn’t help industry or consumers. On the manufacturing front, we welcome the recent policy around electronic manufacturing and inviting semiconductor fabrication units.

It helps us to build from what we have already invested. To move top the next level, we need fabrication units and component makers to find it worthwhile to invest in India.

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Published on March 08, 2013
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