Canadian phone maker BlackBerry today said it has signed a pact with Optiemus Infracom for manufacturing BlackBerry Android handsets in India. This follows close on the heels of Apple Inc deciding to start manufacturing its popular iPhone in Bengaluru (See: Apple to begin making iPhones in Karnataka from April).
Blackberry has also decided to make phones locally in Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh.
The exclusive, long-term licensing agreement with the Indian telecom enterprise follows BlackBerry's recent global licensing agreement with TCL Communication and PT BlackBerry Merah Putih in Indonesia.
BlackBerry has an existing partnership with Optiemus since November last year for distribution and sale of its DTEK50 and DTEK60 handsets. These devices continue to be available through the company's distribution network.
"With this latest regional deal, BlackBerry has now achieved full global coverage for licensees in all markets to manufacture BlackBerry-branded devices, proving the company is delivering on its licensing strategy and accelerating its transition to be a leading security software and services company," BlackBerry said in a statement.
The agreement between BlackBerry and Optiemus Infracom also supports the Indian government's 'Make in India' initiative, it said. Under the terms of the agreement, BlackBerry will license its security software and services suite as well as related brand assets to Optiemus Infracom, it added.
Optiemus will design, manufacture, sell, promote and provide customer support for BlackBerry-branded mobile devices that offer the full BlackBerry experience, including the BlackBerry for Android secure software, in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh.
BlackBerry will continue to control and develop security and software solutions and maintain the BlackBerry security software, including regular Android security updates, it said.
Once a dominant player in making secure handsets, BlackBerry missed out on the touch-screen revolution and has been struggling in recent years against global competitors like Samsung and Apple.
The company has taken a number of steps, including adopting the Android platform for powering its phones, in attempts to re-capture market share.
BlackBerry is transitioning its handheld devices strategy to focus on software innovation, while leveraging third parties to develop hardware and distribute and market the BlackBerry handset brand.
"India is a very important market for BlackBerry, so we are delighted our latest licensing partnership will extend the BlackBerry software experience to more customers and support the Indian government's 'Make In India' agenda," BlackBerry senior vice president and general manager, Mobility Solutions, Alex Thurber said.
''This is an important milestone in our strategy to put the smart in the phone, providing state-of-the-art security and device software on a platform relevant to mobile customers, with more localisation,'' he added.
Ashok Gupta, chairman of Optiemus Infracom, said that with the company's strong end-to-end play in the mobile ecosystem in manufacturing, retail, distribution and support, it is confident that the journey with BlackBerry will be long and successful.