LOW-COST GPRS TO GIVE WAY TO HI-TECH LOW-PRICED MOBILE PHONES

INTERVIEW WITH ACTIVATION AND RETAIL AND CUSTOMER MARKETING MANAGER (PAKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN), NOKIA

TARIQ AHMED SAEEDI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Apr 12 - 18, 2010

Nokia will further expand its network of after-sales services around Pakistan to entertain directly repair and maintenance claims of its mobile phone users, said spokesperson of Nokia.

"We have already established 200 collection points and eight 'Look and Feel Centre' (LFC) in various cities and districts of Pakistan which is an attractive country for investments in telecom sector," said Haseeb Ihtisham, Nokia's Activation and Retail Customer Marketing Manager (Pakistan and Afghanistan).

We understand the problems users of cellular phones face in case of after-sales device faults and roadside repair shops hoodwink them by handling phones improperly within unsafe facilities, he said, "therefore Nokia is setting up its own outlets and ultramodern engineering workshops to redress customers" complaints directly'.

In an interview with Page, he said that Nokia had set up 200 collection points (company's outlets) nationwide to collect defective cellular phones under one year warranty and overhaul them in the company's workshops. In addition to collection points, the company has established LFC, which is a customer care facility with backend anti-static engineering workshops required to fix the defect in mobile, he said.

Nokia's-that has Connecting People as its slogan-approach to Pakistani market is to inculcate customers with understanding that they can use mobile technology not just for communication but also for other routine purposes, he underscored.

He said high cost of data communication in Pakistan is barring cellular phones makers to introduce hi-tech features low-end mobiles. Mobile phones have now become device of managing day life affairs ranging from e-shopping, health check-ups, to other mesmerising timesaving applications. Mobile banking has emerged as another e-banking solution through which mobile users can avail hands-on banking services through mobile phones. Mainly people living in distance from downtowns can benefit from the services. "That's why I feel mobile phone is an investment; a device that can also enhance business value," he commented.

He said Nokia could launch range of GPRS mobile phones in Pakistan if cellular service operators bring down the cost. High cost discourages large number of users to buy high-end devices.

Nokia's Ovi store is a latest addition in its wide range features. "Ovi Mail is a secure and spam-free personal email service designed especially for Nokia Series 40 devices. Mobile phone users can set up their email account for free within a few minutes, and start using the account right away." Mobile phone in Pakistan is used mainly for voice communication. Only a small number of users use phones for data communication. Price of such phones is high as compared to that of low-end mobile phones.

Pakistan is known to be a huge entry market-entry defines handsets that have low price tag attached, he said. 'The country is entry market because of low buying power of its significant population.' But, this does not mean that we compromise on quality of phones supplied to Pakistan while adjusting price of handsets within the price affordability of customers, he added. The reason China is hub of Nokia devices supply to Pakistan is because of logistic cost benefits. Pakistani market can have access to models within suitable cost because of shortened distance between Pakistan and China. The manufacturing of Nokia devices in all its factories across the world is standardized, he replied to a question. Under local law, the devices ought to be tagged 'made in China', he said. He dispelled the impression that there is any difference in quality of handsets supplied to Pakistan due to the reason that it is priced nominally.

Pakistan is known to be a huge market of low-end cellular phones. Average buying power of people in the country is low, although a significant volume of foreign exchange is flown out of the country for importing mobile phones. The country imported over one billion dollar of cellular phones in two-year (2007-09), as per the latest government statistics. Pakistan has become a house or dumping ground of obsolete mobile phones coming from across the border, critics believed. Apart from branded names which are in struggle to get hold of maximum market shares in sale of mobile phones, there are numerous unpopular or say unadvertised handsets available in the market feigning latest technologies in developing south Asia that are outdated in developed countries otherwise. "Pakistani market is price sensitive and while Nokia introduces wide range of low-end and high-end varieties, yet the country is favourable to marketing of handsets for economic class and niche for ultramodern or thematic mobile phones." He said, however, Pakistani market is moving towards replacements. Now people tend to have more than one handsets besides are savvy of global technologies and mobile features, he added. Let me clarify one thing, he said, people should not come to the conclusion that Nokia is treating Pakistan differently. "Pakistan is an attractive market for us and all are about 40 devices introduced annually in areas of operations worldwide, not particularly in one or two country." Non-uniformity in make is out of question, he defended.

"All are global launch." He said the difference is of obviously features for one or other reasons.

He declined to quote figures but he said Nokia had made significant investments in Pakistan. To a question that does Nokia have plan to set up handset manufacturing plant in Pakistan, he said Pakistan is in the consideration list since the country has many advantages to be considered as a location of plant. At present, Nokia has nine plants across the world and they are the original sources of varied class of handsets and parts from low-end to high-end in around 190 countries. Factories in China and India are mainly supplying handsets to the Asian region. These plants are meeting the demands in the region adequately. "So in immediate future we have no such plan," said Haseeb.