Pranav Shroff is the director of global portfolio strategy at HMD Global. Photograph: (WION)
After making Indian consumers wait for several years, Nokia-branded Android phones have finally made their way to the country. While Nokia’s comeback to India have left many excited and nostalgic, there is a notion held by others that it’s too late for Nokia phones to fight a battle in the crowded and competitive Indian smartphone market.
So, to understand Nokia’s positioning and strategy better, we caught hold of Pranav Shroff, director, global portfolio strategy, HMD Global - the maker of new Nokia phones. Pranav is not only confident of the re-entry to India, but he also explains WION that why it’s the right time for Nokia to enter the Android space and how the company aims to bring Nokia-branded Android phones on top of the game.
WION: HMD struck a licensing deal with Nokia last year. How did it occur to have an arrangement with a company that had almost disappeared from the market?
Pranav: So, actually, Nokia as a brand is the pioneer in the mobile world. Nokia is also a brand which even today enjoys over 95 per cent brand awareness, globally. And in markets like India, it actually enjoys 100 per cent brand awareness. Nokia is actually a very strong brand and we at HMD Global are very proud to associate with that.
WION: Nokia had always abstained from Android. So, why did you plan to come up with Android-based Nokia phones? What actually prompted HMD to take that move?
Pranav: So at HMD, everything that we do actually revolves around consumers. So we keep the consumer at the centre of it and think about it from the consumer point of view. And actually, Android was an obvious choice. An overwhelming majority of consumers in India and globally has picked Android as their platform of choice. And we want to make sure that we deliver to consumers what they ask for. And therefore, Android was an obvious choice for us.
WION: Nokia 3 and Nokia 5 are offline exclusive, while the Nokia 6 is an online-exclusive with Amazon. Could you please shed some light on your business model?
Pranav: So the business model of HMD Global, overall, centres around partnerships. So let me break up partnerships as it is a huge term. On the technology front, we have partners like Google, Nokia and Qualcomm. Then if you look at the channel, since you are talking about online and offline, we have partnerships with 400+ distributors all over the country, who have actually signed on to become exclusive distributors of Nokia phones. We already have an existing retail reach of eighty thousand to hundred thousand outlets (currently into the feature phone business), which already enables for us.
At the same time, the consumer is everywhere. We want to make sure we are relevant and available for consumers who walk into our stores to purchase as well as go online to either research or to do their purchase. We will continue to make sure that Nokia product is available for all our consumers.
WION: Nokia 3, 5 and 6 are budget devices, what are your plans to compete in the high-end segment of the Android market?
Pranav: If you look at the Indian smartphone market, specifically, about 70 per cent of India actually buys in this segment. So, it’s a segment (between Rs 10K-Rs 15K) where the belly of the Indian smartphone market exists. And that’s why we wanted to start from here.
We have announced the Nokia 3, Nokia 5 and the Nokia 6, and I am not saying that we will limit ourselves to these price points. I would only say, stay tuned for more.
WION: So when can we get to see the next Nokia device and what kind of device it would be?
Pranav: We are working at breakneck speed. So, stay tuned for more. But what I can tell you right now is that it will have the most stunning design and materials, it will come with pure Android, which is secure and always up-to-date, and it will always focus on real-life experiences what matter to consumers.
WION: Given that Nokia is a late entrant to the Android market, how are you going to compete against rivals?
Pranav: In a sense, the time is actually very right for us to enter the Android market. Because what consumers have been telling us is that they are missing a point of view. There is a sea of undifferentiated products from different companies, who tend to offer bigger or faster, which are not necessarily better. And having learnt this from consumers and coming with a heritage that we have with the Nokia brand, we believe that we will differentiate and stand apart on these three aspects.
Number 1, we will always have the most premium design in any price-tier we operate in. Number 2, we will always focus on what matters to consumers, which means we will give the right specifications. But we will not stop at just the specifications. We will optimise to ensure that the experience delivers. And number 3, consumers ask us for a simple, fast and an easy-to-use user experience, and we will give that with the pure Android experience. We will deliver security updates which Google releases regularly. Because we believe that the consumer trust is something that we will never take lightly and that is something we have earned over the years. And the security features that we will offer will continue to reinforce the trust that consumers have in us. Also, we will keep the OS up-to-date. So, these are the three pillars of our product philosophy that will help us differentiate from anything else out there.
WION: HMD Global says that Nokia phones sold in India will be made in India. What is your overall strategy when it comes to the Make in India initiative?
Pranav: All the four phones announced by us - Nokia 3,5, 6 and the Nokia 3310 - are made in India. So from day 1, the critical aspects of the consumer experience in our long association in this industry are the manufacturing, and therefore, the pricing of the products. Number 2 is the customer care and the after-sales support. And number 3 is the availability. And all of these three blocks have been thought through really well with a lot of effort being put in. So, we ensure that we are making for India. So, it’s made in India from the very first devices that you get. Also, it enables us to have these products at fantastic prices.
WION: So have new manufacturing facilities been set up only to produce Nokia phones, or are the devices being made at Foxconn facilities in India?
Pranav: So, the manufacturing for us is done by Foxconn. And Foxconn then chooses to decide the manufacturing. What I can tell you at this point is that they are made in India by Foxconn.
WION: What are your future plans for India as well for the global market?
Pranav: So as you have already seen from our momentum, we have been working at a very fast pace to bring a lot of devices. I can only say again watch out for more. We will keep coming back to surprise you.