THE PORTAL OF NEWS RELEATED TO NOKIA
Nokia pull off something that was inconceivable a few years ago, to come from nowhere and claim a leadership position in the dual-SIM handset market. In the process, the iconic brand is fighting to regain ground it lost to multinational rivals as well as domestic Johnnie-Come-Latelys.
“We may have been late, but we have redefined the game,” boasts Viral Oza, marketing director at Nokia India, who lets on that in the first month of launch, the company covered some 1.7 lakh Nokia outlets.
Nokia launched its first dual-SIM handset last June, two-and-a-half years after the likes of Micromax and Gfive made a splash. But in less than a year it has dethroned the first movers. According to Gfk, a market research firm, Nokia led with a 23% share in the dual-SIM segment in January 2012.
Samsung, GFive and Micromax followed with shares of 12.7%, 9.8% and 8.7%, respectively. Gfk pegs the market for dual-SIM handsets at 7.5 million in January of a total handset pie of 13.4 million units.
In 2010, shipments of multi-SIM handsets stood at close to 50 million, constituting a little over 30% of overall handset shipments, according to research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. That figure almost doubled last year, with the contribution of multi-SIM accounting for half of overall shipments.
Various research houses have slightly different estimates of the size of the Indian handset market. IDC places it at 183 million units for 2011, and Strategy Analytics at 176.1 million units. Both these firms don’t have break-ups for the dual-SIM segment. Cybermedia Research says the dual-SIM market size is 57% of 183 million units.
According to Cybermedia, in 2011, in the overall India mobile handsets market, Nokia retained leadership position with a 31% share of sales, followed by Samsung with 15% and Micromax at No 3 with 5%.
It’s been a make or break period for Nokia in the world’s second largest handset market, when its share slipped by over half in 2011. This was from a position of domination with a 70% chunk in 2005. The beleaguered handset maker has been losing traction globally due to the onslaught of Android-based handsets led by Samsung and the falling popularity of its Symbian operating system.
And in markets like India it has been facing stiff competition from low-cost local and Chinese handset makers. The almost suicidal delay in launching dual-SIM handsets only compounded the problems. But when the dual-SIM foray did happen it not only helped Nokia in stemming the slide in India but also in its global turnaround efforts.
Nokia CEO Stephen Elop had reportedly said during his second visit to India last September that the dual-SIM success in India has rubbed off on other products. “We get those dual-SIM devices and what do we see? Not only dual-SIM (sales) rocketing, but also other parts taking off as well,” said Elop. “So you get the halo back into the positive direction.“ Back home, Nokia has gone all out to prove it still has the marketing chops to create a big impact . Even as its bikers generated buzz in the small towns of Punjab, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, it relied on street plays and torch rallies at night for consumer engagement. For instance, the company undertook a massive Nukkad Natak (street play) activity in 575 towns and villages across six North Indian states.
A group of stage artists would enter a crowded market area and enact a comedy play, which smartly weaved the benefits of dual-SIM handsets into the script. This was followed by demonstrations of the device and also prizes for those who purchased on the spot. “The activity had a massive response; we reached out to more than three lakh people,” says Oza, adding that the firm was able to sell over 5,300 dual-SIM handsets on the spot.
The handset major had roped in local artists of Chhattisgarh, from the Lok Kala Sanstha, to perform more than 36 Nukkad Nataks in local languages for the branding of dual-SIM handsets. In rural Maharashtra, it spread awareness using torch rallies, with 75-100 people participating.
For cities like Delhi, Jaipur, Lucknow and Bhopal, the Finnish company had a different strategy. It ran digital and radio campaigns, inviting twins to launch C2-00 and X1-01 dual SIM phones, and become Nokia’s brand ambassador for a day. In Delhi, the ‘Nokia’s Twins Day Out’ festival saw 63 pairs of twins come together on June 4. In fact, Nokia claims to have entered the Limca Book of Records for organising the largest gathering of twins in India at a single venue.
Says Babita Baruah, vice president & client services director, JWT Delhi: “Our biggest challenge was to position Nokia as a thought leader, especially after being late in the launch of dual-SIM. So, we created a campaign around the ‘No Compromise’ tagline.” That positioning was reflected in all Nokia dual-SIM TV commercials that talked about all the features that Nokia’s rivals didn’t have, adds Baruah.
Nokia soon realised that given its late-mover disadvantage, it needed to come up with something beyond what the existing players had on offer. It roped in a consumer research agency to conduct a country-wide market survey about consumer expectations from dual-SIM handsets. The study threw up some startling facts. While some handsets lacked quality, others were found wanting in features such as music and style.
“Users compromised while buying a dual-SIM handset,” says Oza. “This gave us a golden opportunity to come up with a differentiated offering.” Being relatively late in the day also helped Nokia throw in features that no other handset maker had provided. For instance, its Easy Swap feature placed the second SIM slot on the side of the phone rather than under the battery. This allows users to change SIMs without having to take out the battery.
Also, its handsets remember settings of up to five SIMs; Micromax and GFive handsets can store settings of just one SIM. What is more, Nokia threw in its Ovi services, Nokia maps and ‘touch-and-type’ feature as value-additions. “Brand Nokia enjoys high credibility, especially at the low end,” says Abhishek Chauhan, senior consultant, ICT Practice, Frost & Sullivan, South Asia & Middle East.
An extensive distribution network of over 200,000 outlets gave the entire portfolio enough visibility and reach, he adds. Agrees Rahul Gupta, senior manager (emerging markets) at Strategy Analytics: “Nokia has always been a very strong player in low-cost handsets.” Micromax, once touted as the Indian David who was getting ready to take on and vanquish MNC Goliath Nokia, slipped up by diffusing its focus on dual-SIM phones and attempting to grab a slice of smartphones. “Like many other players, Micromax tried to be a me-too in smartphones and thereby lost focus in other segments in which it was competitive,” says Chauhan.
Advertising professionals like Prathap Suthan feel Indian vendors never focused on brand building. “This whole thing of outsourcing Chinese products was too good to last,” he says. “A brand cannot be built just by acquiring a commodity,”adds Suthan, now chief creative officer of iYogi, an online technical support services provider.
So, has Nokia finally exorcised the ghost of Micromax? “Well,” says Oza after a long pause. “The ghost never really existed.”