Mumbai: Sunil Dutt, who took over as managing director for India at BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd (RIM) on 6 December—a little more than a month after Frenny Bawa left “to pursue other interests"—has his hands full.

Success mantra: Dutt says BlackBerry is a success because of the overall ecosystem including carriers and applications. (Hemant Mishra/Mint)

Globally, RIM is beset with problems. How do you perceive this issue as the new head of the India operations, and what are your plans for RIM India?

I don’t think we are under pressure on the market share front in India. We are doing well in the country. We, as a team, met very recently and are firming up our plans for the next three years. We will have our strategy in place in a couple of weeks. BlackBerry is a product that is a success because of the overall ecosystem including carriers and applications. We address both consumers and enterprises. And this will continue to remain our focus areas as we continue to try and expand the market and invest in infrastructure, people and marketing.

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Sunil Dutt, the new managing director for RIM in India, talks about the company’s strategy in this country and its new tablet, PlayBook

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How are your previous stints with handset makers going to help you in your new role?

I spent around eight years with the likes of Nokia and Samsung and a couple of years in HP. This experience has proved invaluable. When I came to RIM, the whole meaning of a mobile phone and smartphone changed for me. My experience of the IT space in HP and mobility experience has become more relevant since this is a brand that has an enterprise hue similar to IT companies and is now becoming strong in the consumer space. This helps me understand the nuances of user segments. A clear learning is that a brand has to consistently innovate to be considered a technology leader and innovator by users. It has to bring relevant devices and solutions to gain favour with consumers. With RIM, I’m confident we will be able to meet these needs with our product offerings.

But RIM’s strength in the smartphone segment is being challenged by the likes of Android-based phones. (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 research firm Canalys. However, 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 research firm CyberMedia Research.)

The smartphone market is growing at a healthy pace, and within it our relevance for the consumer is increasing. This gives us the confidence that we are doing the right thing. For instance, touchscreen devices were one of the needs to be addressed, and we fulfilled that need with new BlackBerry touchscreen devices. The other area was affordable services. To bridge this gap, we recently launched a Go BBM (RIM’s instant messenger solution) plan at 5 a day for consumers. Similarly, in the enterprise space, we have been introducing solutions in areas like telemedicine. We have also worked with the Karnataka and Maharshtra police departments to offer solutions, and we are expanding this to other parts of the country. We are also working on public sector unit solutions, which are under way in terms of testing. We also have a very large SME (small and medium enterprises) market in the country and are working on solutions for them.

The PlayBook (RIM’s tablet offering) was a runaway success after you halved the price in India. Do you plan to retain this price point?

That was a festive offer which took off very well. Many enterprises, too, purchased the PlayBook. We are going to introduce a new operating system or OS on the PlayBook (reference to the new QNX Neutrino platform, and applications developed using the Adobe AIR platform) and our strategy will be to provide solutions to both the enterprise and consumer segments. Our strategy won’t be price driven. We are already out of stock and we don’t have more stock though we’re trying to procure more pieces. However, the price for the new PlayBook will be higher but with our solutions, we hope consumers will find it attractive.

What about your product plans for calendar year 2012?

You will find us addressing some very new and niche segments but I cannot reveal more at this stage.

How are you tackling the Indian government’s demand that RIM should ease its encryption to allow for interception?

For any government, security of the country is relevant. The industry has worked together successfully with the government to find solutions. Neither is the government against providing a total solution to the user and (nor) are we. So we have to find common ground.

We have succeeded in sensitising the government to the issue over the past few months. The government now understands that it’s a wider industry issue and not just an issue pertaining to RIM.

In this context, can you tell us what the Mumbai data centre of RIM does?

I cannot comment on the work at the Mumbai data centre at this stage. I’ve been in the company for just a short while so I need more time to understand it.

leslie.d@livemint.com

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