Friday, December 6, 2013

Nokia vs BlackBerry: A study in contrast

Nokia vs BlackBerry: A study in contrast

NEW DELHI: Two global handset makers — BlackBerry and Nokia — going through tectonic changes at a global level have seen their fortunes take divergent paths in recent months in India, the world's fastest-growing handset market.

The premium priced devices of Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry have been steadily falling off the radar of Indian consumers, say retailers. On the other hand, Finland's Nokia has seen strong sales on the back of new Lumia models in recent times.

Both companies were unable to keep pace with smartphone makers such as Samsung and Apple globally, and in India as well where local players such as Micromax and Karbonn sprinted past them in cornering market shares. "Blackberry retail sales are dead", said Himanshu Chakravarti, chief executive officer of The Mobile Store, India's largest mobile retail chain with 27% share of modern retail trade market. "After the initial failure of (Nokia ) Lumia, subsequent launches of Lumia 520 in the sub-Rs 10,000 range are doing very well. The new Lumia range 625, 925 has picked up traction."

The Indian market where BlackBerry captured a large chunk after it began offering handsets at sub-Rs 15,000 levels in 2009, has shrugged off the company's recent launches, especially the BB10 platform, especially because of their high prices and in the face of Android-based models from the likes of Samsung and Sony, and Apple models.

"They're not doing more than 25,000 phones a month now," said a senior executive from another top retailer, requesting anonimity. However, BlackBerry disputed these numbers. "I believe that this is purely speculative and while BlackBerry does not break out country specific sales numbers, I can confirm that our revenues have in fact grown year on year," Varghese M Thomas, corporate communications director for India & Saarc region, said.

Latest numbers show BlackBerry, once the leader in the smartphone segment in India, is no longer even in the top five in a market now led by Samsung. BlackBerry's share has dropped to 0.5% in the third quarter ended September 2013, from 3.9% a year earlier, according to data from mobile phone sales tracker IDC.

Its share was 1.5% in the second quarter of 2013. "There was a little confusion and unrest among consumers in the market whether BlackBerry was going to sell out," Manasi Yadav, senior market analyst at IDC said.

"The pricing also went haywire when they launched the Z10 and Q10 between Rs 40,000 and Rs 45,000. Consumers were not willing to spend that much for the devices."

BlackBerry's Varghese, however, said that the new devices sold very well through festive and enterprise offers while the Z30 was sold out within weeks.

"Unlike most handset OEMs, we offer devices, software and services to our customers, and we measure our success metrics on the basis of driving profitable growth through a combination of all these three parameters," he explained. Meanwhile, Finnish handset maker Nokia has managed to retain its market share in the July-September period after witnessing a sharp fall in the fourth quarter last year.

IDC said the company, which recently sold its devices & services business to Microsoft for $7.3 billion, maintained a 5% share in the smartphone market in the two quarters from April till September this year.

Nokia India's spokesperson said the company has been focused on bringing the Windows Phone to more and more consumers by building a portfolio around Lumia and getting it to newer price points. A large retailer in an upmarket South Delhi locality added that EMI, buy-back schemes and affordable insurance offers have helped push the Lumia models.

"I would prefer a Lumia 520 (available for around Rs 8000 now) because it is in my budget, some of my friends have bought Lumia 720," said 22-year old college student Akash Singh, exploring Windows mobile phones in Nehru Place, one of the country's largest electronics market place.

Chakravarti said that from being virtually non-existent in the smartphone market, Nokia has first established itself in the quasi-smartphone area with the Asha series, which is doing well. He said that the company's global takeover by Microsoft has not impacted the supply chain. and new models, including the 6-inch Lumia 1520 phablet, is set to be launched in India. 

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