Smartphone wars: Nokia refuses to throw in the towel

Finnish giant believes there is still room for a third ecosystem at the top.

Khurram Baig/farhan Zaheer February 24, 2013
“The Lumia range is our answer to the market,” Lamanna said when asked about the competition with other leading players like Samsung, “I think we are in the same league.”

KARACHI: Nokia, once the world’s leading handset manufacturer has refused to throw in the towel and is keeping the faith that there is still room for a third challenger to the throne.

In fact Nokia believes it more than just a challenger.

Nokia accepted this challenge a while back, about two years ago to be exact, when it launched its Lumia series of Windows Phone powered handsets, and recently introduced three more sets, regionally and into the Pakistan market as well.

Nokia’s Vice President Marketing IMEA (India, Middle East, Africa) Alessandro Lamanna spoke to The Express Tribune about being a relatively slow starter and said that the company was a fast learner and was aware of the existing challenges. “We are learning and we are learning quite fast,” said Lamanna, who was in Pakistan at the launch of three new sets in the Lumia series.

“The Lumia range is our answer to the market,” he said when asked about the competition with other leading players like Samsung, “I think we are in the same league.”

When asked about the serious challenges posed by the wide price range of smartphones offered by competitors like Samsung, Lamanna cautiously said that Samsung was a respectable player that Nokia respected all competitors. He however admitted that Lumia was mainly for high-end customers.

Nokia continues to stress that the Asha series is also a smartphone and Lamanna said that this would provide a good challenge in the low-end market.

“Our new Lumia range is obviously for the high-end segment. But we are not just looking at Lumia, we also have Asha. If you take Asha and Lumia combined, we are a relevant player in the smartphone market, he said.

“We do not want to comment on specific market share. We want to be in the top three relevant ecosystems. We obviously want to play a major role. And, of course it will take time like two to three years,” Lamanna said while speaking on Nokia’s plans.

The Nokia executive was particularly keen on Pakistan. “With over 180 million population, you just cannot ignore Pakistan. With a young population, Pakistan is important in all aspects. This young population is looking for new and innovative products. This is a place where you want to be where internet usage especially social media is fast growing.”

He also did not feel that it was too late to enter the challenging smartphone market in South Asia. “I think it depends how you look at the market. You need to see the whole picture. The whole picture tells us that Nokia has a very strong brand image in this region. It is true that many of our competitors are in this market and that they have also captured a market here, but if you look at our (Nokia) foundations like our image. Everybody believes in Nokia as a durable and reliable brand.”

Partnership with Microsoft and future growth

Nokia is very upbeat on its linkage with Microsoft and defends its decision to come out with a unique line of phones with a new ecosystem, instead of jumping on the Android bandwagon. “Our partnership with Microsoft is significant for us because we both have the capability to develop new products. We are collaborating in developing both hardware and software. Some 90% of the computers globally use Windows so the style and feel that they have on computers is available with our Lumia series.”

Tough decisions

Over the past couple of years Nokia has had to lay of thousands of its global workforce, which Lamanna said was a tough decision. “Yeah anything like lay-off is never pleasant. Sometimes you need to take harsh decisions. It was necessary but not a pleasant move.” But he insisted that Nokia may have made tough choices but it still cared about its relationships with these people. “Interestingly, we have activated many programmes in which we have asked these people to cooperate on our projects even when they were not our direct employees. This happened to become a very good entrepreneurial step for those employees to enter into business opportunities.

“One thing that I can tell you is that there is a strong commitment in Nokia to manage these workers in professional way,” Lamanna said.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2013.

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