Nokia has launched new multi-SIM devices in the Indian market, in a belated embrace of a device category that it has shunned for nearly two years.
We believe that this move is a validation of the category and is targeted at the wider emerging market opportunity.
Indian device vendors such as Micromax and Spice should take note and plan for deeper integration of services and expansion into international markets.
Last week Nokia announced the Indian launch of a new line of multi-SIM handsets that are aimed at emerging markets.
The C1 and C2 lines boast multi-SIM functionality, double-SIM in the case of the C1 and dual-SIM in the case of the C2. The main distinguishing factor is the ability to have both SIM cards activated simultaneously.
The C1, priced at $40, is targeted at the entry-level voice and SMS segment, and will come with entry-level features such as FM radio and flashlight. The C2, priced at $50, comes equipped with dual-SIM functionality and also features access to Ovi Mail, Chat, and services such as Nokia Life Tools.
The C1 is based on the Series 30 platform and the C2 on Series 40.
Nokia’s embrace of multi-SIM is definitely late in the game, and follows similar launches of dual-SIM phones from LG and Samsung.
In India, multi-SIM handsets have been around for a couple of years but have only gained traction in the last year, with significant share shifts in the entry-level segment away from Nokia to the Indian brands that pioneered this segment, such as Micromax and Spice.
Nokia lost significant market share in India in 2009 and this can be viewed as the inevitable competitive response from the incumbent.
Nokia’s late response could be likened to similar competitive cycle in China several years ago, when it lost share to local brands and regained it within a couple of years.
The second way to look at this development is on a strategic level. Nokia’s embrace of this segment may not be as grudging as some would argue.
The mere introduction of a multi-SIM handset may not be enough to convince entry-level users to immediately shift to Nokia. However, for those first-time buyers and others on the cusp of an upgrade cycle, Nokia presents a very compelling proposition with its integration of Ovi Mail, Chat, and Life Tools.
Nokia’s future success is predicated on its ability to convince mobile users to access the Internet through the Nokia platform, and it needs to focus on extending web-based services to the mid- and entry-level segments.
Emerging markets such as India represent the ideal test markets to implement this strategy. Beyond the features at an affordable price, Nokia will also offer its usual advantages in distribution, parts, and service, which local Indian brands still don’t come close to matching.
Nokia’s embrace of multi-SIM is not just intended to recover recent share losses in the Indian market. Rather, we believe that this move is a validation of the potential for multi-SIM devices to match changing user behavior across emerging markets.
Consumers in emerging markets increasingly possess multiple SIM cards for varying profiles. For example, users want to balance their work and personal accounts, or use different accounts to take advantage of pricing schemes.
Nokia’s integration of these devices with its services portfolio, combined with its extensive sales and distribution advantages, will help consolidate market share across emerging markets, both within the entry-level segments and against lower-cost challengers.
Indian brands now need to be wary of Nokia competing directly against their popular multi-SIM handsets, but must not lose sight of the larger opportunity beyond India in other emerging markets.
They will need to rapidly scale their business, implement a services strategy, and expand internationally to compete with Nokia.