Nokia Returns

HMD Global brings Nokia back, this time on An­droid OS

Gadgets and Gizmos (India) - - CONTENTS - By Nidhi Singal

Nos­tal­gia hung heavy at the re-launch of the once-ubiq­ui­tous Nokia 3310 in May. With many new fea­tures and mar­keted by a dif­fer­ent com­pany, HMD Global Oy, it was not quite the same model that had taken the coun­try by storm in the early 2000s, but the look and feel were sim­i­lar, and that was all that mat­tered. “It is not a come­back as Nokia never left In­dia,” says Arto Num­mela, CEO, HMD Global. “Nokia branded feature phones have been sell­ing in In­dia all the while, but now we will be script­ing a new chap­ter.”

Num­mela may be fac­tu­ally cor­rect but in fact, given the up­heavals Nokia un­der­went in the last few years, its prod­ucts had prac­ti­cally dis­ap­peared in In­dia. It was a sorry come­down for a com­pany whose hand­sets were used to make the first-ever mo­bile phone call in the coun­try on July 31, 1995, and which, as late as 2007, held 60 per cent mar­ket share. Nokia suf­fered as its smart­phone for­ays, us­ing the Sym­bian 3 and Meego op­er­at­ing sys­tem and later Mi­crosoft’s Win­dows Mo­bile op­er­at­ing sys­tem, could not keep pace with Ap­ple and Sam­sung. With mar­ket share dwin­dling world­wide, it sold its de­vices and ser­vices busi­ness to Mi­crosoft in late 2013, but even Mi­crosoft – which dropped the Nokia brand and rechris­tened the phones Mi­crosoft Lu­mia – could do noth­ing with it.

It is ru­moured that Nokia – whose tele­com in­fra­struc­ture busi­ness con­tin­ued to thrive – never rec­on­ciled to the dis­ap­pear­ance of its brand and from the day it was sold set about work­ing on a new com­pany to re­vive it. The terms of the sale re­stricted Nokia from sell­ing smart­phones for the next two years, but soon af­ter the pe­riod ex­pired, HMD Global – owned by former Nokia em­ploy­ees and nur­tured by the com­pany it­self, though with­out any fi­nan­cial in­vest­ment – was born. (Num­mela him­self spent 17 years with Nokia.) As it hap­pened, Mi­crosoft, dis­illu-

“IN­DIA WILL BE THE MOST IM­POR­TANT MAR­KET FOR US IN THE SHORT- TO MID-TERM”

sioned with the Lu­mia’s fail­ure, was soon ready to sell off its feature phones busi­ness, and in May 2016, HMD Global – along with Tai­wan’s Fox­conn – snapped it up.

A strate­gic agree­ment gives HMD Global ex­clu­sive rights to de­velop and mar­ket Nokia branded feature phones, smart­phones and tablets till 2024 against roy­alty pay­ments to Nokia, while the man­u­fac­tur­ing will be car­ried out by Fox­conn. The smart­phones and tablets will use Google’s An­droid op­er­at­ing sys­tem. Al­ready the duo has launched two feature phones (in­clud­ing the Nokia 3310) and three smart­phones, one of which, Nokia 3, will be avail­able in In­dia start­ing June 16, while the other two, Nokia 5 and Nokia 6, are sched­uled to hit the mar­ket in July. “Our am­bi­tion is to launch Nokia An­droid smart­phones and cre­ate a fresh port­fo­lio of feature phones,” says Ajey Me­hta, Vice Pres­i­dent, In­dia, HMD Global.

Three Pil­lars

HMD Global ex­ec­u­tives say the new Nokia phones stand on three pil­lars – premium de­sign and qual­ity of man­u­fac­tur­ing, im­proved life ex­pe­ri­ence and pure An­droid OS. Some use the premium Corn­ing Go­rilla Glass and qual­ity alu­minium of the 6000 Se­ries. Un­like with many other phones, cus­tomers will not have to choose be­tween a sec­ond SIM card slot and a mem­ory card – slots for both have been made avail­able. The phones have a long bat­tery life and the OS is pure An­droid with reg­u­lar up­dates, not the cus­tom user in­ter­face that many ri­vals pro­vide. “We’ve part­nered with the best,” says Num­mela. “We have Nokia for the brand, Fox­conn for engi­neer­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing, Qual­comm for chipsets and Google for An­droid.”

The smart­phones are be­ing launched al­most si­mul­ta­ne­ously in 120 coun­tries. “But In­dia will be the most im­por­tant mar­ket for us in the short to mid-term,” says Num­mela. The com­pany still has a net­work of 400-odd ex­clu­sive dis­trib­u­tors. “Most have worked with us for years,” says Me­hta. “They en­able us to reach 80,000 re­tail out­lets across the coun­try. We have also roped in HCL to help us man­age other chan­nels such as on­line sales and or­gan­ised re­tail chains like Croma and Re­liance.” Nokia 6

will be avail­able ex­clu­sively through Ama­zon In­dia. “We’ve been work­ing closely with HMD,” says Man­ish Ti­wary, Vice Pres­i­dent, Cat­e­gory Man­age­ment, Ama­zon In­dia. “Most peo­ple re­mem­ber Nokia for its ro­bust phones. There is a lot of an­tic­i­pa­tion for the Nokia An­droid smart­phone.” The 3 has been priced at `9,499, the 5 at `12,899 and the 6 at `14,999. Nokia 6 will be avail­able ex­clu­sively through Ama­zon In­dia.

The phones meant for In­dia will all be as­sem­bled at Fox­conn’s fa­cil­ity at Kancheep­u­ram, Tamil Nadu. HMD is also set­ting up Nokia Mo­bile Care out­lets, with trained staff, across 300 cities and towns to pro­vide af­ter sales ser­vice. It will pro­vide pick up and drop ser­vices for phones at an­other 100 ur­ban cen­tres. “Off­line re­tail­ers will wel­come this ad­di­tional brand, though there will be pres­sure to en­sure high mar­gins and mar­ket­ing de­vel­op­ment fund­ing,” says Rushabh Doshi, an­a­lyst at global tech­nol­ogy mar­ket re­search firm, Canalys. “Main­tain­ing the bal­ance be­tween on­line and off­line re­tail will be crit­i­cal. Manag­ing price par­ity will also be im­por­tant.”

Chal­lenges ahead

Nokia emerged as In­dia’s most trusted brand in the mo­bile phone cat­e­gory in 2017 in a re­cent study by TRA Re­search. But will it at­tract the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion? “Nokia’s acid test in In­dia will be whether it can win the mil­len­nial cus­tomer,” says Doshi. “While its resid­ual brand equity will have its de­vices fly­ing off the shelf in the first few quar­ters, sus­tain­ing in­ter­est will need strong mar­ket­ing, a well-de­signed prod­uct port­fo­lio and a sound chan­nel strat­egy.” The mar­ket­ing has al­ready be­gun, with HMD Global set­ting in mo­tion a high pow­ered $500 mil­lion global cam­paign for three years. A good prod­uct port­fo­lio will also re­quire se­quen­tial launches of the kind Sam­sung and Xiaomi have ex­celled at. Sam­sung is the leader in the In­dian smart­phone mar­ket, but a num­ber of Chi­nese com­peti­tors like Xiaomi and Len­ovo are nip­ping at its heels. “Nokia must es­tab­lish its USP quickly to stand out,” says Doshi. The com­pany claims that 37 per cent reg­is­tra­tions for the phones, and 30 per cent of all traf­fic on its web-web site, has been from In­dia. But Indians are get­ting a lit­tle im­pa­tient. “HMD Global an­nounced the phones in Fe­bru­ary and peo­ple have al­ready waited a long time,” says Man­ish Kha­tri, Part­ner, Ma­hesh Tele­com, a Mum­bai re­tailer. “Some are los­ing in­ter­est. But once all the de­vices are launched and if there is enough stock, Nokia might have an edge.”

Arto Num­melA /HmD Global Ceo

Ajey Me­hta, VP In­dia, HMD Global, un­veil­ing the de­vices be­ing launched un­der the Nokia brand

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