Second innings: Nokia rides on more than just brand recall

Ajey Mehta (left), India vice-president, HMD Global, and Florian Seiche, CEO, at the launch of the Nokia 2 in Rapid Metro, Gurugram, on Tuesday. Photo: Sanjay K Sharma
When you are in conversation with the global leader of a renowned handsets brand on board a metro in Gurugram, you know this is not a common ride. That is how it turned out this afternoon when Florian Seiche, chief executive officer, and Pekka Rantala, chief marketing officer of HMD Global, makers of Nokia handsets, took a metro ride to introduce a new smartphone.

With the new Nokia 2 on full display in a specially redecorated Rapid Metro train, the Finnish company on Tuesday announced its global launch in Gurugram as the coaches travelled on elevated tracks among the high-rises of Delhi’s satellite town. Given the importance of India for the once-iconic brand that had almost 85 per cent market share here, Seiche says Gurugram is an obvious choice.

Nokia’s reliance on India has not diminished over time. According to Seiche, the new Nokia, which began its journey some 11 months ago and has operations in 80 countries, has seen Indian emerge as one of its three largest markets worldwide. According to Counterpoint Research, Nokia has garnered 8.5 per cent of the local feature phone market and is at fourth spot among handset makers in this segment.

“India has the potential to become our most important market. We expect to enter the top five league in smartphones in the next three to five years,” he says. For a brand that has considerable recall among consumers across socio-economic classes, the focus will be on leveraging brand Nokia. 

However, like the changing landscape for the rapidly growing mobile handset market, the challenges too have changed since Nokia exited a few years ago. From being a predominantly feature phone market, the tide in India has turned towards smart telephony and the Android operating system now dominates.

Acknowledging sea changes in market dynamics, Seiche says, “It is a new start for us in the smartphone segment. One important asset is the brand, which has provided us great re-entry and the opportunity to move towards the next goal. We not only need to build on our original key brand attributes, like assured quality and simplicity, but we also we need to make the brand more relevant to new consumers.” 

“While others are mostly trying to reproduce things that are successful, we do not want to take that path. We will create a unique product portfolio with a new design language and a secured Android experience,” he adds.

To gain a foothold in the intensely competitive trade, the company has appointed 400 exclusive distributors who are loyally pushing its products, says Rantala. It has also tied up with 80,000 retailers and plans to take that number to 100,000 by December. 

Yet much hard work is due. “The products have to be great, the marketing has to be right and customer service has to be superior. Consumer insights and reactions tell us that there is latent demand for a European brand that offers high-quality products and we have the mandate from consumers to be in all segments,” Rantala ends on a high note as the metro train re-enters the Sector 55-56 station, the starting point, after a 30-minute ride.

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