Talking with Review Central ME, Sanmeet Singh Kochhar, the Vice President for India & MENA at HMD Global, the maker of the Nokia brand of devices narrated his journey with Nokia, which started in 2008 with Nokia India.
Coming from an FMCG background and working with Colgate Palmolive, it was a shocking surprise to find that Nokia controls the maximum share of the market in India. And according to him, it was great learning to operate in such a market. Then came the smartphones, and the market changed forever, the company started feeling the heat and ultimately Microsoft bought it to create an alternative to iOS and Android smartphones with Microsoft’s Windows smartphones. Kocchar also became a part of the Microsoft team to promote Windows smartphones, allowing him to step out of India and work in the Middle East and the Asia Pacific.
When Microsoft decided to opt out of the smartphone business, Kocchar left Microsoft and joined HMD Global to resurrect the Nokia brand. Looking back at the initial days at HMD Global, Kocchar said, “We started from scratch, with a formidable task of rebuilding both the brand and the organisation. Initially, there were apprehensions but once we were able to roll out our plans, we saw investments start coming in and even Google, Qualcomm, and Nokia Technologies invested in HMD. This faith from industry assured us that we are on the right path.”
He further said, “The journey has been quite challenging, yet very enjoyable and satisfying. Today, after 5 years in business, despite stiff competition, covid pandemic, parts shortage, and logistics issues, we have been able to create a sustainable business model for us. And, I am happy to share that during the last financial year, we grew by 40%, and also we became a profit-making company, which is not an easy milestone to achieve for a growing startup company on a global scale”.
The Nokia brand has been marching ahead and the Nokia devices are currently available in over 80 countries globally. Coming to the Middle East region, Kocchar said that both the smartphone and feature phone category business is doing well for us in the region. We are slowly gaining market share in the smartphone category, while, we are the number one player in the feature phone category across the MENA region.
When asked about the impact of the global economic situation on the business, Kocchar said “The global economic indicators are not very encouraging, especially we see lots of headwinds because of the rise in petroleum prices and the global inflation. Emerging markets have been impacted by these headwinds heavily, but I think this could be a good opportunity for us, as customers during tough economic times lean towards a trusted brand to offer a durable product. And Nokia has always been a trustworthy brand offering quality products at an affordable price. With a very strong portfolio of products in the lower-end and mid-end segments of the market, I believe we are comfortably placed to further grow our market share.”
Talking about the expansion, he commented that the company is adding new models in both the feature phone and smartphone categories. Besides, mobile phones, the company is also entered into the tablets and accessories business. We have recently entered the tablet market, and we have been overwhelmed by the response.
The company also entered the premium smartphone market with the launch of the Nokia XR20, which is priced from AED 1500 onwards in the UAE. The Nokia XR20 is a rugged durable 5G smartphone, and it is uniquely positioned with its militarily grade toughness, water resistance, and other security features. The device supports various 5G bands that ensure seamless connectivity in any part of the globe.
With mobile becoming the prime gadget for every user, it is also becoming a prime target for hackers and cybercriminals. Kocchar said “Security has become a big concern for mobile users, especially when all our information is stored on the mobile, be it our bank details, mobile wallet details, passwords, messages, photos, videos, in short, everything is there on our phone. We take this seriously, which is why we promise and deliver 3 years of monthly security updates and 2 years of Android OS updates on our G-Series and X-Series of smartphones.”
He added, “It’s not that our competitors don’t offer such security features in the same price category, but they also give you an advertisement. There are already bloatware apps installed on those devices that keep popping up ads and offer more possibilities for cybercriminals to target your phone. Today, security has become a race between hackers and people who are trying to protect your devices. You need to make sure that you are in the race and that your smartphone is continuously getting improvements and updates so that it stays secure. Thanks to our use of pure Android OS, security updates become easy without any technological conflicts and the regular monthly updates ensure security stays intact but improves with time.”