Handset manufacturer HMD goes all out to regain Nokia's glory in India

A Nokia logo is seen at the company's headquarters in Espoo, Finland
HMD Global, which sells handsets under the brand Nokia, is looking to regain the lost glory in India. After setting up its business in 2017, the firm is planning to turn the tables in 2018. Since HMD Global entered the handset business in 2016, it has sold 70 million devices. India is among its top three global markets. It has better potential than other European markets.

After making a mark in the feature phone market within a year, HMD is now eyeing the top spot. The Finnish firm wants to clinch a significant share of the smartphone market that is currently dominated by Asian manufacturers.

Pekka Rentala, chief marketing officer of HMD, has set the standards of the local market as a global benchmark. Unlike earlier, when Nokia used to dominate the market, its market share is less than 10 per cent. The market has over 200 handset brands.
Rentala wants to rely on the nimbleness of a start-up, rather than taking the conventional approach. He wants to focus on strengthening distribution.

While, Nokia has an established e-commerce channel in Europe, penetrating offline and online distribution channels in India is crucial. However, the emergence of brands such as Vivo and Oppo had made the job difficult, he added. Instead of penetrating the market with high margins and discounts, Nokia will offer products that are value for money.

“The dynamics of the market are changing constantly and consumers, operators and manufacturers play crucial roles. We are focused on sustainable growth. Constant fluctuations are neither good for us nor our partners,” he said. Despite competition, the firm has managed to rope in over 100,000 retailers and 510 exclusive distributors.

HMD partnered Foxconn in 2016 for manufacturing handsets locally. 

It is staying away from entering in-house manufacturing as that will increase pressure on its newly founded base. As the government hikes the import duty on components making assembly costlier, HMD is now exploring ways to increase local value addition by assembling key components in Foxconn’s plant in Tamil Nadu.

Although consumer trust is declining across sectors due to data theft, data leak from handsets and the rise of fake news, Rentala sees an opportunity for Nokia. 

“There could be a few positives for us. In times of uncertainty people go for trusted brands. Thus consumers might go for Nokia even unconsciously,” he said.

Nokia has managed to enter the top-five list in the feature phone market within six months of its comeback. In the December quarter, its share remained at 6 per cent, behind Reliance Jio, Samsung, Micromax and iTel. 

Ajey Mehta, vice-president and country head of HMD, is now eyeing the top spot. He said the job would not be easy. Nokia has been brought back as the principal sponsor of the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the current edition of the Indian Premier League to reach out to the masses. According to Mehta, the aim is to send across the message that Nokia is back with Android smartphones.

“KKR has a fan base of 20 million on social media and we will be leveraging that. Our focus is not only to create awareness. We want to increase the conversion rate of potential customers,” he said. 

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