Mumbai: It was Nokia that introduced mobile phones to millions of Indians in the mid-2000s, but the Finnish company sank under the onslaught of the smartphone revolution. The Nokia brand was bought back to life in 2017 by HMD Global, started by former Nokia executives. The company recently launched three new smartphones in India, taking its portfolio to a total of 13 phones (including eight smartphones). Nokia hopes to become one among the top three in the smartphone segment in a couple of years, executive vice-president and chief marketing officer, Pekka Rantala and India country head and vice-president, Ajey Mehta said in an interview. Edited excerpts:
How is HMD Global positioning Nokia as a popular smartphone brand, years after Nokia ceased to be the preferred choice of masses?
Rantala: Nokia is an interesting alternative to American and Chinese phones for consumers to consider. We like to believe that we are a fresh alternative. During the first year of our operations in 2017, we managed to bring several new Nokia phones to the market (including eight smart phones). We sold more than 70 million Nokia phones during 2017. There are signs from consumers around the world that there is space for the Nokia brand. We want to be one of the top smartphone players in the world, though we are already the leading feature phone maker just after 12 months of operations.
Mehta: During 2017, we started building our network in India by setting up our distribution infrastructure. We currently have 510 exclusive distributors covering 110,000 stores across the country. This will be increased by 10-20% over the next few months. We have also built after-sales service network across 370 outlets in India. Going ahead, all Nokia phones—upwards of Nokia 3—will have Android One from Google. We are looking to be a full range player that operates across price points. Our ambition is to be one among the top three smartphone players in the coming two years.
How do you plan to become one of the top three players in the smartphone market?
Mehta: We are confident of our product philosophy. Our phone designs are based on feedback obtained from customers. We also work with our partner Foxconn to ensure that best material and manufacturing capability is used to make world class products. We have also focused on experiences—by providing great audio, camera, and a Secured Android. HMD Global is an asset-light organization which has several key partnerships—with Google, operators, and others trade partners—which beef up consumer value propositions for our customers. Also, brand Nokia has a huge connect among consumers.
How important is the Indian market for Nokia?
Rantala: We have invested heavily in India—the most among all our other markets. We know that we will get a great return from the Indian market. What makes us confident is the popularity of Nokia brand (in India).
We, however, have a job to do to make the brand relevant for young Indians. A significant number of our phones were sold to people under 35 years old globally. We are trying to make the most of the reliability, quality, trust and emotions attached to the brand Nokia. We also make high quality products that are meant to last.
How do you plan to grab a bigger market share in India?
Mehta: We are targeting our products at the millennial population. We are developing campaigns targeted towards this audience. We are also extensively using digital space to market ourselves. We want to be seen as a brand that brings in new technologies to the market. We have some way to go. Our entire focus this year will be to build the preference and consideration for our products, including both smartphones and feature phones.
Rantala: Nokia, as a smartphone brand, has a very unique take on Android. However, expectations from Nokia are very high since we brought mobile phones (feature phones) to billions across the world. So, when we announce that we are coming back, consumers are expecting to see great quality and products with great innovations. It is still very early days for us and we are very happy with the progress so far.
How will Nokia position itself in India, which is a price-conscious market?
Mehta: Nokia has offerings for all segments. We will be having products for consumers across price points and segments.
We have currently eight smart phone offerings and five feature phones that were launched last year. Going forward, we will be launching a slew of products in 2018 to make sure that we have offerings across each and every price point.