Despite facing stiff competition from Chinese smartphone players in India, Nokia brand licensee HMD Global says the company’s long-term strategy is to deliver a product that is less about the specifications and more about the experience.
“For us, it is not much about the specifications, but about how can we maximise the experience that we want to deliver to the consumer,” Ajey Mehta, Vice President India and APAC, HMD Global, told Indianexpress.com over a phone call.
To differentiate the Nokia brand from Chinese smartphone makers, Mehta said his priority is to sell a phone that shows the best of the Scandinavian approach to design, along with the cameras. He also noted that all Nokia smartphones have the advantage of stock Android that helps the devices keep better over time.
Admitting that rival brands like to play on specifications and price, Mehta said the company has shifted its strategy more towards smartphones that could better compete with Chinese smartphone players. Its Nokia 7.2 is being pitched as an answer to Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro and Realme XT in the mid-range segment. The phone has a frosted-glass back panel, a triple camera setup, and night-mode capabilities for low-light shots. Nokia 7.2 is available for Rs 16,799 on Amazon India.
“We have now identified strategic areas to set goals for the future of Nokia phones and we believe that they really been positioned to win in India,” he said, adding “we are here for the long play and we are happy to progress over the last two years.”
For HMD Global, India represents a huge growth opportunity due to sheer size. Mehta said the company will continue to launch phones across price brackets and that will never change. The company is closely watching the mid-range segment to prop up those unit volumes. At the same time, he sees opportunities coming in the low-end segment, where he expects sales to rise.
“Nokia will continue to focus across price brands, but of course, offerings will be aligned with each price brand can offer in terms of opportunities to grow,” Mehta said.
While Mehta may say the Nokia brand is in the right direction, the company is under pressure to compete with smartphone brands from mainland China such as Xiaomi, Realme, Vivo and Oppo.
“Since the last three years of the launch in India, the performance by HMD Global has been rather underwhelming, considering they have launched around 15 smartphone models. This is mainly due to intense brutal competition in the segments HMD Global has chosen to play in,” said Navkendar Singh, an analyst with IDC India, referring to players like Xiaomi, Realme, Oppo, Vivo and Samsung.
Singh said the Finnish brand has been slow to respond to the competition and that reduced its chances to take on its rivals who pumped huge resources in marketing across channels and launched new models at aggressive price points with high specs.
Not just mid-end, Nokia smartphones have struggled in the top-end of the market, where Apple, Samsung and OnePlus are clearly the only market leaders. One recent Nokia model, Nokia 9 PureView was touted for the best cameras on any flagship thanks to its partnership with the German lens maker Carl Zeiss. However, the world’s first phone with a penta-lens camera setup was a let down with most reviewers taping the underwhelming camera.
“The goal with the Nokia 9 PureView was to make a bold statement of what can be done on imaging on smartphones, one of our really strategic focus areas.”
“We had a similar goal statement with the Nokia 8 Sirocco and some of the other flagship devices and that’s what we did with the Nokia 9 PureView depending on the segments they operate in. Our ambitions are in line with those categories,” he adds. Mehta did not reveal when the company’s next flagship will hit the market but rumours suggest a sequel to the Nokia 9 PureView to launch in Q2 of 2020.
Like other smartphone makers, HMD Global also plans to offer a 5G smartphone in 2020. “We have not yet formalised our roadmap and what product will be launched at what price,” he said.
Singh agrees the recall value of Nokia is still there, but young consumers are no more able to relate to the Nokia of yesteryears. According to research firm IDC, HMD Global was not among the top five smartphone players in India in the third quarter of 2019.