Nokia bets on Lumia in India as sales stir hope
Feb 19, 2013 (Hindustan Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
When the new century dawned, mobile handsets were almost synonymous with Nokia.
That was a time when most Indians carried handsets made by the Finnish company that commanded strong brand loyalty on the back of its early start and sturdy engineering. A decade later, around 2011, Nokia's market share was swept away by the Android wave as the Google-backed operating system rode the demand for software-heavy smartphones.
In the blink of an eye, Nokia lost more than half its marketshare as the cheap alternative to its Symbian operating system proliferated.
The quarters since have spelt more bad news for the company as Nokia's marketshare fell to 22%.
However, now courting a market in which the software platform and applications (apps) are critical, Nokia has eased its rickety Symbian platform for smartphones and forged an alliance with Microsoft and is now betting on the alliance to prosper.
Soon after Nokia's marriage with Microsoft, the Windows-based Lumia was born.
Though still a toddler, Lumia has been able to arrest the downslide of market share for Nokia in the premium smart phone segment.
There lies Nokia's hope for a rebound. Globally, the company has sold around 14 million units of the Lumia -- of which a sizeable chunk has been in India where Lumia's 2012 sales commanded a 14% marketshare.
Though exact sales volumes are still a matter of debate, experts agree that the phone is in the same league as premium category smartphones from Samsung and Apple.
Lumia at present sells in the price range of Rs.10,000 to Rs.38,000.
Katyayan Gupta, mobility analyst at global consultancy Forrester Research, said Nokia Lumia is expected to gain further momentum in India.
"Importantly Nokia's leak of marketshare to other premium smart phone manufacturers has been stopped due to Lumia," he said.
The main pillars of Nokia's Lumia strategy for India are maps, high definition video and camera, entertainment and an elegant design -- apart from push mail and apps.
"Last year was transition. We are now all set to regain our leadership in the smart phone category," claimed Vipul Mehrotra, director and head, smartphone devices, Nokia India.
The annual growth rate of India's smart phone market is 98% and the future is now an open game.
However, Gartner's Anshul Gupta, says Nokia has not made any significant progress in India yet.
"There is a lot of lost ground to be made up. Android is still popular," he said, adding that the sales volumes are still very low.
To compound Nokia's worries, Android-based phones are still spreading thick and fast, with an extremely aggressive Samsung in no mood to relent.
Even Apple and BlackBerry are getting aggressive. Apple, which enjoys a cult following in the West, has introduced an easy installment scheme for India.
And BlackBerry launched its new operating system, BB10, last month and is set to unveil handsets next Monday.
Katyayan feels Nokia needs to fill in a product gap in the sweet spot of Rs.25,000 to Rs.30,000 for India.
"If Nokia launches a Lumia phone in this price bracket it could be huge success," said Katyayan.
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