'Telecom policy to connect Bharat'
A steady one, I would say. We started commercially here in May 1995. The first mobile phone call in India was made on a Nokia 2010 phone and a Nokia network. We complete 10 years here this month-end. The first seven years were fairly slow for the mobile market. Internally in Nokia, India was viewed as a sleeping beauty – lot of potential but not enough delivery. This was largely due to environmental conditions like licence fees, high cost of devices and high tariffs. The market exploded in 2003 and since then it has been showing very strong growth. Nokia India is fifth globally, behind the US, China, UK and Germany.
What needs to be done to further propel growth?
The key drivers for growth include increased geographical coverage with 20 per cent of the population being covered across 30 per cent of the country. With BSNL rolling out more lines (40 million more in 18-24 months) growth will only increase. Government policy should be aimed towards making it a viable business case for operators to connect Bharat, the interiors of India.
What is Nokia doing on its part?
Our effort is to reduce the total cost of ownership (for users and operators). This has three elements. The first is to have affordable handsets. We have a range of over 40 handsets – 33 in GSM and 8 for CDMA – with the Nokia 1100 at Rs 2,700 market operative price and the Nokia 8800 at Rs 44,000 maximum retail price. The second is to reduce the cost of infrastructure – lower cost of operations through mobile entry solutions that require lesser maintenance. The third bit is to help operators to reduce costs - like e-refill instead of paper vouchers for pre-paid.
CDMA users complain about lack of choice. What do you say?
It is a fact that CDMA handsets do not have as extensive a range as GSM. The gap is being narrowed. A year ago Nokia had three CDMA sets, today the number stands at eight and will touch 12 by the year-end. Recently, we unveiled the Nokia 6255 – the first CDMA handset with Bluetooth, high end MP3 and a memory card.
Some users complain about Nokia’s costly after sales and spares?
Nokia India is rated the top in customer care and we have the largest after sales network. However, I must say that for any consumer product, satisfaction is a constantly moving target. We have ramped up our care centres and expanded our care partners to three now - after HCL Infosystems, we now have Brightpoint and Solectron US. The cost of spares including battery and chargers has come down from earlier levels and would be even lower if the government reduces the high 30% customs duties.
How is the manufacturing plant coming up?
The Sriperumbudur facility will be the tenth Nokia facility globally. It will be similar in size and scale to other global facilities. With Nokia manufacturing here, a lot of our global vendors will come to India and also set up operations. Our decision to manufacture here sends the right signal. Other companies think if Nokia is here, then India is a good destination. Like the car industry, which led to Indian ancillary suppliers going global, I expect similar things to happen here.