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BlackBerry is Gen Y’s new cool tool

When she leaves for London to study further, Tanya Mehra will not bring with her the album of friends’ photographs she compiled. She will instead have on her person at all times her BlackBerry, a device through which her friends back in Mumbai will just be an instant message away.

india Updated: Aug 09, 2009 01:09 IST
Purva Mehra

When she leaves for London to study further, Tanya Mehra will not bring with her the album of friends’ photographs she compiled. She will instead have on her person at all times her BlackBerry, a device through which her friends back in Mumbai will just be an instant message away.

Mehra (22), purchase it on a whim, while in America. “I’m a tech-junkie. The phone looked good and I felt it would soon be a rage in India,” admits the Bandra resident. A year on, her prediction is proving true. The brand, the communications device of choice among middle and upper management, is finding takers in an age group that is farthest from boardrooms.

Many of Mehra’s closest friends, for instance, have splurged on the coveted phone in recent months.

“The youth want to stay connected on social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, and the BlackBerry allows for easy Internet and e-mail access,” explains Ajit Joshi, CEO and MD, Infiniti Retail, parent company of the consumer durables retail chain, Croma.

The gizmo has been in the throes of an image makeover since January, when unlocked versions of the phone arrived in the market. Price points for newer models have since become more competitive allowing a new demographic to access the tool.

On August 4, Airtel introduced the BlackBerry Curve 8520 smartphone at the aggressive price of Rs 15,990.

“We believe it will appeal to young professionals, students and retail customers who use their mobiles for messaging, social networking, e-mail, music and entertainment,” says Raghunath Mandava, chief marketing officer, mobile services, Airtel.

Teens and 20-somethings, however, opt for the BlackBerry (BB) for other reasons. “I’d been saving up for a BB solely for the BlackBerry Messenger (BBM),” says marketing professional Simran Lamba (22), who bought a pink BlackBerry Pearl two months ago. “For just Rs 399 a month, I have access to unlimited texts. I’m so heavily glued to BBM, I don’t need to make calls anymore.”

This feature, exclusive to BB users, is the equivalent of instant messaging services such as MSN Messenger or Gchat. Once BB users exchange their BB pins with friends, they can chat for free from BB to BB, even across continents.

“Many of my friends study abroad, and I figured BB would be the best way to stay in touch,” says Jueta Hemdev (21), a Mass Communications student whose investment set her back Rs 23,000. “It’s free, and so conversations get quite random. We make plans, express moods and stray thoughts,” Hemdev confesses.

‘The BB epidemic’, as it’s being known in younger circles, is spreading rapidly. Adding to their list of BBM friends is like an exercise in collecting trophies. Within two months of buying her BB, Megha Tandon has 46 BBM friends. “I’m constantly being pulled up by my family for my BB affliction. Besides being a great networking tool, we can conference chat with as many people at a time.”

For Rahul M (17), his BB has taken over as his PC. With most utilitarian softwares of a regular computer, he hardly uses his laptop now. “I mostly use the pocket-sized PC to Facebook and check mails. I even bring it to school because of Internet access,” says the Class 12 student, whose parents dished out Rs 31,000 for the phone. His BB is also his ticket to cool — his friends are yet to get one.

In keeping with demand, new styled-for-fun BB devices are steadily invading the market. Manoj Kumar, CEO of eZone, affirms that at his consumer durables store, BB growth is in multiples. “On a month-on-month basis, there has been a 50-100 per cent growth in sales,” he says.

With 24x7 connectivity, BB users are fast multiplying. “Only when you have a BB you realise how big the circuit is…It’s the happiest I’ve ever been with a phone,” says Nicky Ramnani (25).