Old strengths, new opportunities

Aug 26 2014, 01:38 IST
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SummaryMicrosoft can tap into Nokia’s goodwill and strengths to emerge as a top smartphone player

It is hard to find an Indian with a mobile phone who has not used a Nokia at one time or another. But that brand is slowly fading, or should I say folding into another formidable brand. It won’t be long before Nokia completely transitions into Microsoft and tries to reclaim the loyalty that many of us have to the Finnish phone maker. The work has already started.

“Nokia is still in the fabric of this country. There are still 300 million Indians with Nokia phones… we literally built the phone market here. I don’t think we are stupid enough to ignore all of that. But we know we have to innovate to stay relevant,” says Chakrapani GK, general manager, Consumer Channels Group of Microsoft India. He should know, having spent a considerable part of his career with Nokia.

While Microsoft will continue to woo the Indian smartphone consumer with Lumia devices, it has also started investing in local manufacturers to take the Windows Phone experience to different price points. “We are looking at a 100-million-unit smartphone market this year and over half of that is the sub-R8,000 segment. For us to be a competitive challenger, we have to be entrenched at every R1,000 price point. Between R5,000 and R6,000 you are looking at 15-20 million units and there is another 15-20 million in the next R1,000 bracket,” explains Chakrapani, adding how the effort has to be to produce different experiences around every $10 or $20 price change.

Till a few months ago, Nokia had hit a sweet spot with Lumia 510 and 520 smartphones, which were arguably the best devices in the under R10,000 segment. That was before the Moto phenomenon happened. The Moto E and Moto G have been so successful in India that despite being available only on Flipkart, Motorola has managed to sell 1 million units in five months and claim the number five smartphone brand spot, according to IDC. Most of Motorola’s gain would have been Nokia’s loss. There has since been a spate of Android devices trying to make a mark in the sub-R10,000 segment and there are more coming. IDC gives Google’s Android operating system a 84.7% Q2-2014 market share in India, while Windows Phone is flat at 2.5%, behind Apple’s iOS.

But Microsoft seems to have some weapons being readied in its armoury. I got a glimpse of one, an ultra-light Lumia phone with an Indian

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