The news of the Microsoft and Nokia deal has been all over since yesterday amid skepticism and perhaps even criticism. Odds seem heavily stacked against the prospect. Nokia which had been the market leader in cellphones in India for many years, had recently been replaced by Samsung on the top spot. But inspite of that, Nokia still has one of the best brand recall in the country upto the interiors of India.
Some years back, when Nokia was still placed as the global leader in cellphone space, I had the good fortune of meeting researchers from their labs. As I was then heading the Accessories department in Delhi NIFT, my immediate thought was to get our students learning fashion accessories to be involved a short project that NOKIA labs was then conducting in India. So while the rest of NIFT was on summer vacation, a group of our students and some faculty got the opportunity to be part of the process of understanding the Indian market as part of a larger “Future Urban Project”.
It was then we were sensitized to the various in-depth research methods that mobile phone companies employ and amazed by the future oriented outlook that NOKIA had. While Android has undoubtedly taken over due to its ease of use, the understanding that NOKIA has about local markets such as India, gained from systematically studying the ethnic intricacies and their needs is something which may give it competitive advantage in its new story, especially in the emerging markets.
Microsoft too is a household name in India, so this deal might be one to watch out for in the long run.