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Nokia back in India, banks on emotional connect

14 June 2017

Nokia on Tuesday re-entered the Indian cellphone market though this time around, it is not a company but just a brand. The company is HMD Global, a Finland-based firm started by old Nokia hands.

But then, HMD reportedly talks like Nokia, walks like Nokia, is full of ex-Nokia people, and sells Nokia phones. For all practical purposes it is now Nokia. On Tuesday the company launched the Android-powered Nokia 6, Nokia 3 and the Nokia 5 smartphones in India.

HMD Global is betting heavily on the emotional connect that brand Nokia had with the masses in the past to sell its new line of phones in India.

Armed with 10-year rights to market the iconic brand, HMD is confident of soon becoming one of the top smartphone players in the country.

 "Nokia is a people's brand and we have had a phenomenal legacy. The brand is known to be reliable and trustworthy and it continues to have a strong recall among consumers even today. The new line of smartphones will continue to deliver on that promise," Nokia India vice-president Ajey Mehta told PTI.

It will be a while before consumers, and tech media in India, gets a better look at the Nokia offerings 5 and Nokia 3. According to an India Today report, these are impressive phones, with HMD Global is taking a very clean and very simple approach with its first Android phones.

These devices are not about super-fast or and ultra premium hardware - that will possibly be the Nokia 9 in future - but about the good smartphone experience. And that Nokia is hoping to provide with three basic things - a clean and distinctive design that also has premium finish according to India Today, there is no doubt that the Nokia 6 is the best-looking and best built phone under Rs15,000.

Then there is the Nokia 5, which is more or less similar to the Nokia 6 in design and build quality. And finally there is the Nokia 3, which may have a plastic body but its finishing and build quality make it look quite dashing. Overall, on the design part Nokia gets it right.

HMD has chosen the sub-Rs15,000 category to launch three smartphones. The devices will be manufactured by Foxconn in India, and sold under the Nokia brand.

 This category - which is growing at a steady pace - is also witnessing fierce competition with the likes of Samsung, Lenovo (and Motorola), Xiaomi and vivo lining up a slew of devices.

Once a dominant player in the Indian market, sometime around 2012, Nokia began to see a downfall in its market share, hurt by its slow response to changing trends like dual SIM, touch screen smartphones.

In 2011, Nokia announced a partnership with Microsoft to bring out Windows operating system-based smartphones. In 2014, Nokia sold its mobile phones business to Microsoft for $7.2 billion.

 Last year, Microsoft sold the feature phone business to HMD Global and contract manufacturer Foxconn for $350 million. HMD Global, in a separate arrangement with Nokia, said it will bring out Android-based smartphones.

Nokia 3 and Nokia 5 smartphones will be available in India only through retail stores for Rs9,499 and Rs12,899, respectively. Nokia 3 will be available from 16 June while Nokia 5 will be up for pre-booking from 7 July.

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