Pricing could decide BlackBerry 10 fate in India

Written by Anand J | Bangalore | Updated: Feb 2 2013, 09:05am hrs
Even as the new operating system (OS) and the two devices that BlackBerry launched on Wednesday brought some zing beneath the Canadian smart phone makers wings globally, the pricing of the products will potentially decide whether the company will enjoy a second coming in India, according to experts.

Though the software and the hardware, along with the security features, are among the best available in the smartphone market today, sales may depend largely on the pricing in a market that is renowned for being cost conscious.

The two devices that BlackBerry announced, based on the new OS called BB10, are titled Z10 and Q10. The latter still retains the Qwerty keypad. The BB Z10 is likely to be launched in India by the last week of February, while the Q10 will be available globally only in April. A BlackBerry India spokesperson told FE, Pricing in India will only be announced on the day of the launch.

The smartphone market in India is still primarily in the sub R20,000-price bracket. Even for BlackBerry, more than 90% of the devices they sell in India belong to that category.

Definitely in markets like India and Indonesia, the low to mid-tier segment offers the highest growth and opportunities in the smartphone market, said Anshul Gupta, analyst, consumer technology and markets, Gartner. Globally, when the devices are priced higher, the mobile operators tend to subsidise the upfront payment through tariff plans across two years.

India is an open market. Tie ups with the operators have not worked with the largely pre-paid customers in India. Apple tried its global model but that did not succeed in India, said Manasi Yadav, senior market analyst, IDC India.

For any chances of BlackBerrys revival in India, irrespective of the performance of the device globally, the firm will have to price it competitively. Even Apple, with its high-desirability quotient, has managed only 1% of Indias market share for the third quarter of 2012, according to IDC figures. Plus, BlackBerrys penchant of delaying product roll-outs is also a concern for analysts.

BlackBerry, even while falling like nine pins across the world, the company did well in India up until 2012. According to IDC data, in the third quarter of 2011, the firm had a market share of 12% in India. But it faced a huge reverse in the same period in 2012, when its share plunged to 4% in India.

In an earlier meeting with FE, Sunil Dutt, MD, Research in Motion India, had said that the company has lined up expansion plans in the country, having already reached over 250 cities and 5,000 outlets.

We brought in relevance of pricing by getting prices of some products to reach wider mass of consumers. The story is all coming together in India as we are investing in the right properties, he had said.

According to experts, BlackBerry faces challenges on both front getting new consumers and keeping existing consumers and even upgrading the existing consumers to BB10. The premium people paid for BlackBerry when it came doesnt stick anymore. When BlackBerry came, corporate mails, BB chat, etc, were available only to them. That USP has gone, said Shiv Putcha, a principle consumer analyst with Ovum, a consulting firm.

The number of free apps is also going to be a deciding factor for BlackBerry in India, more than the number of apps itself (around 70,000). But for an avid gamer or app enthusiast, who wants most of the ad supported free apps, BB may let them down. The users may end up spending more for apps in BB10 than say Android, said Putcha.

Experts feel that even the strength of security and enterprises may not be of much help if BlackBerry prices it higher. Putcha said that even the advent of bring your own devices (BYOD) may not help much in India as usually employees tend to make that choice.

In India, the device market has become very user centric, said Yadav of IDC.