Mumbai: Amonth after BlackBerry phone maker Research in Motion Ltd’s (RIM) managing director for India, Frenny Bawa, left “to pursue other interests”, the company has appointed Sunil Dutt as her replacement.
Dutt, who assumed charge on Tuesday, earlier worked for Hewlett-Packard India Sales Pvt. Ltd as president of the personal systems group. Urpo Karjalainen, senior vice-president, Asia Pacific, for RIM, was the interim India chief after Bawa quit on 3 November.
Dutt has his task cut out. Globally, the BlackBerry brand name has been affected by outages in the US and a drop in smartphone market share because of the increasing popularity of Apple Inc.’s iPhones and Google Inc.’s Android operating system phones manufactured by vendors including Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, HTC Corp. and Motorola. Moreover, the new mobile Windows OS phones have also begun nibbling at shares in the 120 million global smartphone market.
In the July-September quarter, RIM’s market share fell below 10% for the first time in the US from 24% in the year earlier, according to researcher Canalys Inc.
Tough task:RIM’s new managing director, Sunil Dutt
In India’s estimated 12 million domestic smartphone market, RIM grabbed a 13% share in 2010, an increase from 8% in 2009 and just 3% in 2008, according to Cyber Media Research.
In the three months ended 30 June, RIM occupied the third place in the Indian smartphone segment, with a share of 15%. Nokia Oyj led with 45.8%, followed by Samsung at 21%, according to researcher IDC. Apple’s iPhone had just over 1% of the market share.
BlackBerry was traditionally positioned as an enterprise phone for corporate executives, but has recently reached out to the youth with candy-coloured devices that have the popular BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), an instant messaging service.
“It allows them to keep in touch with each other, and there is peer pressure to do so,” said Krishnadeep Baruah, director of marketing at RIM India.
“It was a very conscious strategy to target the youth,” corroborates RIM enterprise sales director (India), Sunil Lalvani.
RIM first slashed the price of BlackBerry Curve to less than Rs 10,000 and BBM went viral after its advertising campaign in February last year, coinciding with Valentine’s Day.
RIM also typically worked in partnership with telecom operators globally since 2004, although in India, it is not tied down to any carrier.
RIM introduced tiered data plans last year, where users could pick and choose features to suit their needs and pockets. It also introduced prepaid data plans as daily (Rs 15 a day) and weekly packs.
RIM simultaneously strengthened its retail and distribution channels with Redington in the consumer space and with Ingram Micro in the enterprise space. Currently, the company has more than 4,000 multi-brand stores, and has set up over 500 BlackBerry Experience Zones within multi-brand stores, equipped with a demonstrator trained by RIM. BlackBerry also has an Appworld with around 26,000 developers “developing local apps for the BB platform”, said Annie Mathew, head of alliances and developer relations at RIM India. Around four million apps have been downloaded from the Appworld in India till date.
The apps include the Blackberry Balance, which partitions the phone into enterprise and personal spaces. It comes handy with the emerging trend of enterprises allowing employees to “bring their own devices”, according to Lalvani. When an employee leaves, the information technology department personnel can remotely wipe out the enterprise data without touching the personal data.
RIM says these strategies will work in India. In the past 10 weeks, it introduced seven models—three of which were launched on a single day. And globally, RIM unveiled a new name for its next-generation operating system, BBX, which is expected to boost its global performance next year.
“While RIM’s volumes are stable, it has not been able to grow at the market growth rate of around 40%,” said Anshul Gupta, a Gartner analyst.
He acknowledges that RIM has an edge in the enterprise space with its “security” proposition. But here, too, Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, Nokia’s Symbian and Microsoft’s mobile Windows OS are making strides, according to Gupta.
“Besides, all smartphone players will have to be wary of the entry of the smaller India mobile vendors box and Chinese vendors in this segment next year,” he said.
RIM, meanwhile, maintains it is “working closely to meet the government’s requirements” on encryption issues “which is a larger industry issue”, Lalvani said.