It is hard to find an Indian with a mobile phone who has not used Nokia at one point or the other. 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 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 dont think we are stupid enough to ignore all of that. But we know we have to innovate to stay relevant,” says Chakrapani G K, General Manager, Consumer Channels Group of Microsoft Corporation India Pvt Ltd. 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 smartphone market this year and more than half of that is the sub-Rs 8,000 segment. For us to be a competitive challenger we have to be entrenched at every Rs 1000 price point. Between Rs 5,000 and Rs 6000 you are looking at 15-20 million units and there is another 15-20 million in the next Rs 1000 bracket,” explains Chakrapani, adding how the effort has to be produce different experiences around every $10 or $20 price change.
Till a few months back, Nokia had hit a sweet spot with its Lumia 510 and 520 smartphones, which were arguably the best devices in the under Rs 10,000 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-Rs 10,000 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, a ultra-light Lumia phone with a Indian brand’s logo on it. It is among the lightest phones I have held in my hand, and would hit the India market soon with Windows Phone 8.1. As cheaper phones become better, it will be this sub-Rs 10,000 category that will see bulk of the volumes.
Chakrapani says Microsoft is getting more precise and clear on how it wants continued…