‘Black­Berry Re­mains Com­mit­ted to In­dia’

‘We passed dan­ger! We have picked 10 coun­tries right now, in­clud­ing In­dia, to go be­yond five coun­tries where we have al­ways been in. In­dia is go­ing to be a boom­ing econ­omy’

The Economic Times - - Business Of Brands -

Black­Berry CEO John Chen is count­ing In­dia among the coun­tries that will be key to the com­pany’s next phase of re­vival. Speak­ing to ET’s Dan­ish Khan and Romit Guha, Chen said the com­pany would in­vest in re­build­ing the team, dis­tri­bu­tion net­work and on re­viv­ing its en­ter­prise ties in In­dia but asked for pa­tience. Chen added that while he was con­fi­dent of turn­ing around the hard­ware busi­ness, he won’t wait in­def­i­nitely for it. Edited ex­cerpts:

This is your first visit to In­dia since you took over. What brings you here now? In­dia at one time was quite a big mar­ket for us. Over the years, things have changed. So, I want to make sure that I see our peo­ple here, part­ners and the gov­ern­ment. Also, see the mar­ket, and come up with a bet­ter idea and in­for­ma­tion about how we in­vest back into the mar­ket.

Would we see Black­Berry mak­ing some in­vest­ments in In­dia this year? Ab­so­lutely! We have to re-do the team first and our In­dian oper­a­tions are hir­ing peo­ple. Also, we just have got a cou­ple of part­ners for en­ter­prise mo­bil­ity seg­ment in In­dia. So, we are broad­en­ing the dis­tri­bu­tion.

What is the out­look for Black­Berry? We passed dan­ger! We have picked 10 coun­tries right now, in­clud­ing In­dia, to go be­yond five coun­tries where we have al­ways been in. It needs time, it needs pa­tience, but we are com­mit­ted (to In­dia). In­dia is go­ing to be a boom­ing econ­omy, es­pe­cially the SME model, which is go­ing to be big.

How is the com­pany re­viv­ing its oper­a­tions as part of the turn­around strat­egy? My first man­date was to get the fi­nan­cials back to nor­mal and sec­ond man­date is to re-pivot the busi­ness. Our in­fra­struc­ture has gone down, not only in In­dia, but in a lot of coun­tries, partly be­cause we needed the cost struc­ture to be right. Our fo­cus is now shift­ing to en­ter­prise and mo­bil­ity, while hand­set re­mains im­por­tant at only about 30%, against 100% two-three years back. Now, we are look­ing at grow­ing economies, In­dia and China cer­tainly qual­ify for that. We are look­ing at mar­kets where we have good brand like In­done­sia, South Africa, Nigeria, the UAE and Is­rael. The com­pany is here to stay, with se­cu­rity and en­ter­prise be­ing most im­por­tant pil­lars. I think we have great prod­ucts, but a weaker dis­tri­bu­tion.

What is the fu­ture of the hand­set busi­ness? BB10 OS is def­i­nitely not dead. The rea­son is even if I want to make it dead, I can’t be­cause we have a lot of key gov­ern­ment cus­tomers around the world that rely on it and will con­tinue to buy it. The most im­por­tant thing to me is to be able to make money be­cause that busi­ness has very mar­quee names with var­i­ous pres­i­dents and prime min­is­ters us­ing Black­Berry de­vices. BB10 OS lacked ap­pli­ca­tion sup­port, but it is the most secure de­vice. But if you just do that, you would never make money. In or­der to ad­dress the big­ger mar­ket, we came with the An­droid-based smart­phone. We de­cided to ad­dress the se­cured An­droid mar­ket, which is largely un­tapped. We reckon that we could serve the mar­ket much bet­ter than Ap­ple. Ap­ple can serve only on the de­vice side. But we pro­vide de­vices along with soft­ware and ser­vices.

NEXT STEPS My first man­date was to get the fi­nan­cials back to nor­mal and sec­ond to re-pivot the busi­ness. The com­pany is here to stay, with se­cu­rity and en­ter­prise be­ing most im­por­tant pil­lars

What went wrong with Priv smart­phones? We re­leased our An­droid de­vice just about when the high-end phone mar­ket went soft, so that was prin­ci­pally the rea­son be­hind the luke­warm re­sponse. How­ever, ex­e­cu­tion could have been bet­ter be­cause I tried to sell these phones through car­ri­ers as re­tail shops. I need to be more di­rectly avail­able to cus­tomers. I am not too con­cerned. I truly be­lieve we can make money in hand­sets.

Can we ex­pect af­ford­able An­droid smart­phones from Black­Berry? You would prob­a­bly see more on the mid-price range, which is usu­ally around $300-400. I doubt that Black­Berry can com­pete on the low end in this mar­ket.

FILE PHOTO

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