The return of Nokia in Pakistan along with its new portfolio of smart devices is a looming threat for many brands if not all. How the company plans to shake the mobile phone market, we had an exclusive session with Muhammad Kamran Khan, Country Head for HMD Pakistan & Afghanistan. Following is what he shared about the future plans.

What is the vision of Nokia for Pakistan and what product lineup the company plans?

The company shares a very inclusive vision regarding the Nokia phones and aims to provide the best experience to the people regardless of their current price segment. Whether we are talking about a student who wants a simple device or an avid smartphone user who is looking for a premium experience, Nokia would provide optimum devices for both. Under our theme of “inclusion of everyone,” Nokia phones would be available in all price segments.

How Nokia’s Android phones would be different from any other Android device?

Let me start off by stating the fact that most Android users do not experience the actual operating system because the smartphone manufacturers create their own skin on the top for providing a customized flavor. This ordeal puts the users in a terrible situation because they cannot update their devices to the updated Android software until the manufacturers create a new skin for the smartphones.

With Nokia devices, users would not face this problem as we are not going to introduce any particular skin on top of the operating system. As a result of our partnership with Google, our phones will have a pure Android experience where any updates in the operating system would be implemented across all the devices in real-time. Meaning, as soon as Google has a new update, the users would get it, thus improving user experience and providing extra security for the device.

As a result of our partnership with Google, NOKIA phones will have a pure Android experience

Thus, any updates in the operating system would be implemented across all the devices in real-time. Meaning, as soon as Google has a new update, the users would get it, thus improving user experience and providing extra security for the device.

Not having a customized Android skin, wouldn’t it create a problem in the longer run?

We are aware of our strengths and believe that Google is far better than us when it comes to designing an operating system. Our company was honored by the tremendous confidence portrayed by the tech giant as despite not selling a single mobile phone in any of major markets (except China) they were present at the official launch event of Nokia phones at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2017.

What would be the Marketing Strategy of Nokia in Pakistan?

There is a proliferation of mobile phones in Pakistan where people now have more than ample choices to choose from, but Nokia has a clear point of differentiation from other brands, and we believe to possess the best manufacturer of mobile devices, great specifications and lastly unparalleled Android experience.

However, talking about the marketing of our brand, the company would initiate a 360-degree campaign where we hope to bring together our devices, the unique operating system and the consumers under one umbrella, creating our very own recipe of success.

Motorola re-launched in Pakistan recently; do you think their marketing strategy worked for them?

Unlike Motorola, Nokia has a very long heritage, and we can see a tremendous amount of excitement among the masses despite the fact that we have not yet launched anything in the market. The anticipation of people is evident from the fact that they are even trying to bring Nokia’s devices from abroad to sell them at extremely high prices despite our warnings that the phones would not work this way.

People have had a long association with the Nokia brand which is why in spite of being absent from the market in the last few years, it still has the highest recalled value which is surprising for any company which has seen many highs and lows.

We know what our customers expect from us; a device that stays true to the Nokia’s value, great designs, easy to use, enhanced Android experience, reliability, and durability and we aim to market all these features to our customers as key selling points.

Your focus seems to be on the smartphones, so what actually compelled you to bring feature phones in the Pakistani market?

Pakistan has an incredible market of feature phones which over the years has shown a resilient trend.

Around 1 million feature phones are sold per month which is extraordinary as this market boasts the sale of 3 million units of feature phones in a single quarter.

Right now there are two real players in Pakistan; QMobile at the lower end and Nokia feature phones which are placed at the higher end. What actually differentiates us from the rest is the fact that we were able to create various segments.

We offered Nokia 230 to a different segment of the market that gave us around 75% share in that particular segment. We are aware that smart devices are a part of the future technology, but we can also see a strong market for the feature phones in Pakistan.

We introduced Nokia 3310 earlier this year, a feature phone which is all about a passion that connects people with the nostalgia of Nokia brand. It is more than just a phone as it is becoming more of a phenomenon among people who previously didn’t experience the glory of 3310.

How long is the feature phone going to stay in Pakistan?

Previously, Nokia did not focus on the whole feature phone business, but the tide is changing right now. Ever since the company announced its return in the mobile phone market, we have gained a significant share without putting any considerable amount of effort. Currently, Nokia does not have a mobile phone in $10-$20 price bracket, which caters to 50% of the feature phones market share; however, we still enjoy a huge pie.

I do believe that the market for the smart devices would continue to grow at a rapid speed due to a large population of youth in the country, rising rate of Internet and social media penetration. However, the success of Nokia 230 makes me confident that the feature phone market is not going anywhere though I doubt that it would ever grow, but may remain even or suffer a small decline.

What is Nokia’s philosophy for appointing distributors; would you go with single or multiple?

Right now we are working with a multiple distributors model, but I firmly believe that it cannot work very well considering the price competition in the market that takes away the focus from improving the services offered to users, which ends up hurting the customers.

On the other hand, if we were to employ a single distribution partner who understands and realizes our vision, it would likely invest and focus more on providing quality services to our customers.

So, does it negate the rumors of a possible partnership with Greentech or Muller & Phipps?

I have a massive amount of respect for Greentech; however, Advance Telecom is the only active distributor of Nokia since last October. Though Muller & Phipps is a legal distributor, Advance Telecom has been importing phones, fulfilling the current demand efficiently.

What is your stance on the issue of gray imports?

Talking on behalf of a smartphone brand, smuggling of mobile phones is not just the problem for the manufacturers but affects every citizen of Pakistan as it is costing huge money to the people and is creating disruption in the market. According to Ishaq Dar, Finance Minister of Pakistan, the grey market has resulted in the loss of Rs. 35 billion annually.

This is one issue where we cannot work alone and have to rely on the government’s support. The Pakistani government and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) need to step up and take the necessary measures as soon as possible. Currently, PTA is testing a whitelisting system that will ensure legal imports.

A new entrant Oppo crossed 0.1 million monthly recently; don’t you believe their strategy of relying on the end retailers would work in the future?

Customers are not usually aware of the fact that how many distributors are working behind the scenes and their opinion is only based on their experience of the marketplace. Oppo has done a remarkable job at their point of sales, where the shops look pleasant, and their actual success can be attributed to their overall retail experience.

The presence at the point of sales is critical for any brand, and we feel that a single distributor who realizes how great an impact the Nokia brand would likely make on his business will surely invest more, making sure that the right outlets are branded where the consumers could actually experience the live devices.

Who are your immediate competitors in the local market?

We would like to remain humble and consider everyone a competitor in the Pakistani market. It would be unfair for me to say that Nokia is targeting a broad range of audience between the users of iPhone and upcoming brands, but we do want to remain as an inclusive brand.

Would Nokia bank on any single feature, e.g., Selfie Camera, for selling its devices?

The upcoming Nokia phones are not about one ‘single’ feature. For instance, if we consider Nokia 6, it is made from a single block of aluminum which is a novelty in this price segment. It would be supported by finest manufacturing capabilities alongside the premium experience of stock Android OS, with great specifications such as a 3GB RAM and 32GB internal storage.

The import of mobile phones in Pakistan varies from 1.6 – 2.4 million. Can this size grow further?

The smartphone market in Pakistan has changed exponentially. What users could only imagine a couple of years ago is now an actual reality for them. I believe that if we can further enrich the experience of smartphones at entry level, we can see a dramatic rise in its sales.

With the majority of the young population in the country, more people would become economically independent in the coming years resulting in the increased ownership of smartphones. Right now out of 200 million population, Pakistan has around 140 million mobile phone connections which would likely double within the next 2 or 3 years.

What kind of after sales services should we expect from Nokia?

Currently, we offer a 100% replacement warranty for our feature phones, but this service is not practical for the smartphones. We are currently working with the Muller and Phipp’s care division, a separate department from the distribution to timely send the renovated device back to the customer. We also intend to improve the company’s after sales service by improving the latency that is the existing norm in the market.

Everyone knows about Nokia, what is HMD Global?

HMD Global is a Finnish company licensed to market Nokia phones for the next decade. The company has entered into a collaborative partnership with Foxconn, Nokia and Google with an objective to present the best devices to the consumers and provide benefits of technologies while sustaining the economies of scale.