Devin Jayasundera reporting from Dhaka, Bangladesh
Finnish phone manufacturer the global brand Nokia with diminishing market share in North America and East Asia still dominates a strong presence in the South Asian region.
Nokia’s stronghold has always been the feature phone market where many of the South Asian users associate the brand with durability, user friendliness and long battery life.
To further increase its presence in the feature phone arena, Nokia launched the Asha series with the expectation of providing an advanced internet experience for the South Asian mobile user.
In Sri Lanka Nokia is still regarded as the No.1 feature phone. 95% of the population still uses basic phones according to Nokia Sales and Business Development Manager, Sri Lanka Shiblee Shakik Ahmed. Nokia experienced a 20% growth for the year 2011, generating mainly from the selling of feature phones.
“There is about 80% subscription penetration that is according to the amount of SIM cards sold. But as many of the mobile phone users are using multiple Sims the actual penetration is at 50-55% which amount to10-11 million phone users. That is our target market said Ahmed.
The inclusion of the Asha series to the Nokia range will provide the consumer a faster internet experience and it is expected to generate a demand from those who are not yet able to afford a smart phone devices.
Nokia does not only provide apps to smart phone devices but also provide for its internet enabled feature phones. “Nokia has a much more reach in apps when it comes to feature phones and over the last six months in the emerging markets there was a weekly average of 0.8 million downloads in applications. 0.5 million came from Bangladesh, 0.2 million from Sri Lanka and 0.1 million from Nepal. These download were mainly coming from low end to mid-range internet enabled feature phones of Nokia”.
Due to the increased threat from Chinese and Indian manufacturers of low priced feature phones, Nokia is facing stiff competition to maintain its long dominance and has also lost its market share considerably in 2009/2010 in the South Asian region.
Ahmed opined that that “Competition is not only with the branded phones. We cannot match the price of the Chinese and Indian manufacturers are selling. But people are increasingly getting more quality conscious and by producing low cost internet enabled phones, will enable us to differentiate from the low quality phone manufacturers.
Nokia launched its first duel Sim phone through the Asha series, Nokia Asha 200. In responding on why Nokia was very late in producing duel Sim phones Ahmed professed that even it is a late entry we will assure that it is the best duel sim phone in the market.
In regard to the low popularity in using smart phones among the public in Sri Lanka Ahmed said that even people who could easily afford a smart phone device are using basic feature phones. We believe that the interest generated by using internet enabled phones will drive consumers to try smart phones.”
Ahmed also said that this year they will be equally concentrating on both segments of the market in Sri Lanka but there would be more focus on smart phones. “As the country’s per capita income is one of the highest in the region and the literacy level is high, Sri Lanka is a highly prospective market. The Sri Lankan consumer is very quality conscious and that is why there is still a high demand for Nokia feature phones. In align with the global marketing strategy we hope to market our smart phones aggressively and to also be the leader in the Smart phone segment in Sri Lanka.”
With regard to Nokia’s new CEO Stephen Elop, Ahmed confessed that in the future Nokia products there would be more emphasis on the operating system and design. He mentioned that the Windows operating system will revive the already fading smart phone business of Nokia.”