Nokia today launched its brand new smartphones Nokia 3, Nokia 5, and Nokia 6 in India. The three smartphones run on Android and are competitively priced. Nokia 3 and Nokia 5 will be sold exclusively at offline retail stores while the higher priced Nokia 6 will be exclusive to Amazon initially. HMD Global, which holds the rights to use and make Nokia branded smartphones globally, will be selling these smartphones in India.
At the launch event, the company agreed that Nokia harbors a very special bond with Indians. That’s true, or at least it used to be. We Indians loved our Nokia phones. But things are different now. The market has completely changed. Nokia isn’t the brand that rings a bell when someone heads out to buy a new smartphone in the market today.
But HMD Global plans to change all that. In a way, it wants to rebrand Nokia in the country.
First things first: Nokia’s new smartphones, all three of them, have nothing out of the extraordinary in terms of features or specifications. Yes, they do look good and there are a few things going for them here and there but that’s about it. Nothing out of this world that would make them news, apart from the excitement around the Nokia branding itself.
In a way, it feels like it’s deliberate. Nokia 3, Nokia 5, and Nokia 6 attempt to rekindle the faith we once had in the company. HMD Global has been pretty clever about it. Decent-level specifications matched with an extremely sugary price tag is a good way to enter a crowded smartphone market. But it will take more than just that.
HMD Global claims that Nokia will have a very strong offline presence. The company intends to focus on delivering a good user experience as well as a decent support network. The latter is much more important for Indian smartphone customers.
Nokia 3 and Nokia 5 will be sold at retail partners across India. This is huge for several reasons. Nokia had an excellent retail partner network back in its glory days. It not only helped in sales and distribution but it also kept the brand strong. With its new strategy to sell select smartphones offline only, it will kill a few birds with one stone. For one, it will keep the retailers happy. An offline retailer is more keen on selling devices that people cannot get online. This is a strategy a lot of Chinese brands have applied over the years. Another key point, a lot of Indians
Another key point, a lot of Indians still shop for smartphones at offline retail stores. Buying a new smartphone at a retail store is very different from the online world. When you’re online, you do all your research yourself and you know exactly what you want to buy. But at retail stores, a large part of convincing is done by the sales staff at retail outlets. I have personally seen sales guys at retail stores misleading customers into buying smartphones of their choice, rather than what the customer intends to buy.
One more area where the offline exclusive strategy might work is the little vacuum created by some smartphone manufacturers with flash sales. There are plenty of good smartphones that people aren’t able to buy at these flash sales. Nokia might just be able to offer better alternatives, at the closely matching prices.
As for Nokia 6, the only online exclusive smartphones launched today, it would appeal more to the younger generation which seems to be the target audience here. People who are looking for an alternative or a second device might also indulge in the Nokia 6.
Having said all that, don’t expect great sales numbers from Nokia. At least not initially. A lot of people are likely to buy the initial Nokia 3, Nokia 5, and Nokia 6 smartphones for brand nostalgia (if that’s even a thing). The Android smartphone market is ruthless when it comes to newer players.