June 30, 2009

Nokia's Internet Pledge

Kashif Choudhury - I wrote a previous article titled ‘Mobile Internet: The Hope for Digital Bangladesh’. On a visit to the country, the Nokia regional vice president of sales had this to say about Nokia’s strategy for increasing internet accessibility in Bangladesh.

Nokia, the global leader in mobile handset manufacturing, plans to bring the internet to the mass in Bangladesh through its latest solutions. About strategy and relevance to Bangladesh, Carr said: “We are at a point in time now where the solutions that we got for the Bangladesh market and in particular our strategies are very much aligned with the opportunity we have here. So we are really looking for digitizing the market here.”

“The proposition that we are bringing into the market with solutions such as Ovi Mail, which has recently been launched here,
really provides a great platform to be even more relevant than we are today to the consumers of Bangladesh.”

With the Ovi Mail solutions the company is trying to offer lower cost and break down the cost barriers for the consumers, Carr said. "So for many of the consumers we see that as a key driver for us to drive the growth of internet penetration and its growth for Bangladesh. This is a fantastic opportunity given the fact that the penetration rates are so low in terms of broadband internet access being as low as 3 or 4 percent.”

Nokia believes that it can be a very active contributor in driving that penetration much higher, purely by cutting down the cost of access to the internet.

“I think the Ovi Mail is just one example of that where we're providing a device which is roughly $50 as oppose to a cost of a laptop or a high-end device. So the proposition is really there to stimulate the usage,” he added.

About future, he said Ovi Mail is the tip of the iceberg for the company and its strategy is very much about bringing the internet to the mass. All the capabilities the company is bringing into service platform will go to the mass, Carr said, adding that so the company is bringing down the cost of entry for consumers.

“Clearly our vision in Nokia is about 'Connecting People' in richer and better ways. So we are looking to enhance the experience of the consumers and in the same way we proliferated the world with SMS capability through our devices and we're looking to do the same with email. And email clearly provides a form of legitimacy to communication that doesn't necessarily exist with SMS or recorded voice,” Carr said, while talking about solutions for businesses.

He also mentioned different offerings that they have in the market specifically around email such as Microsoft Exchange for such enterprises that are not purely developed by them.

“We have been working on this for quite a while and it is a very good solution for any MNC or SME with a Microsoft Exchange server in their offices having all the features and security of Microsoft email on the mobile device at a very cost effective solution,” he added.

About handset market, he said there are two ways of growth coming here. One is affordability. Cost of devices continues to come down over time and the second wave is the company's ability to bring internet access to a level of affordability.

Globally there are over four billion mobile phone subscribers, according to GSMA. The next billion subscribers are coming from Asian markets such as Bangladesh, Indonesia, India and China.

So the next billion subscribers will come from markets like Bangladesh, Carr added.
“If we talk specifically about Bangladesh, one of the good point here -- we want to be a part of the community and want to be relevant to the community, part of that has been the transformation of the grey to the local legitimate business, which is something that we strive for in all our markets,” he said.

When Nokia first set up its representative office here back in 2006, the percentage of grey coming into the market was 80 percent, which is 20 percent now. There are local distributors here. They have developed a care network, which provides care services and employment opportunities as well. Also there are Nokia-branded outlets so that people feel comfortable with buying the original product.

“We also try to give back to the community through corporate social responsibility projects. One of the CSR projects that we are running here is the breast cancer project,” Carr said.

About expansion plan, he said: “We will continue to build the brand here, and with the second wave of internet penetration coming in, our expansion is really going to be how we drive down the cost of entry in Bangladesh. Our expansion is really going to be around enabling the internet for the mass.”

The motivation of any government is taken into close consideration for the benefit of the mass and no one can question that. From the company's perspective the two key pieces of how it is trying to enrich the lives of consumers in Bangladesh is through driving down the cost of ownership of mobility and cut the cost of internet access and in addition to that trying to legitimize the business as much as possible by preventing the grey, Carr said.

One of the challenges in imposing higher level of taxation means it creates opportunities for people outside Bangladesh to potentially exploit those higher tariffs by illegally importing products. These are the limitations that he sees as a result of higher tax.
Independent studies have been conducted, which highlight that increase in mobile penetration has an impact on GDP and the overall consumer productivity goes up.
About market share, Carr said: “We see our role as the market leader in Bangladesh to lead the internet revolution to many of the consumers here -- their internet experience would be via a Nokia handset. These opportunities don't exist in lot of markets today but Bangladesh is one of them where it does.”

Globally Nokia has a 37 percent market share.

“When you look at the next billion subscribers, most of them will come from emerging markets, so we've designed our solutions to be able to grow our shares in markets like Bangladesh,” he said.

About the future of global internet usage, he said, in the longer term, the preferred point of access for the consumers will be their mobile devices. There is a study suggesting that mobile access to the internet will exceed the PC access to the internet by 2012.

“The immediacy of social networking whether it's Facebook or Twitter is growing. People want to be connected real time. People don't want to wait to go home or to the office to share their information. So social networking is a paddle, which is driving the need for immediacy with mobile devices. Social networking is growing at three times the rate as the traditional internet usage and twice as fast as search and mobile email. People's behavior is changing in terms of how they want to interact with internet and the level of immediacy and the mobile device provide them with that platform,” said Carr.

This means that big companies like Nokia are intent on increasing the utilization of the internet across the country. This is good news for all of us. As increase in internet availability will lead to a lower cost for consumers making it more accessible to us.

Source: The Daily Star.


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