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Secrets behind BlackBerry's success in India

Last updated on: July 27, 2011 10:35 IST

Secrets behind BlackBerry's success in India

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Leslie D Monte

A couple of years ago, it would have been almost unthinkable to imagine candy-coloured BlackBerry phones in the hands of college youth.

BlackBerry was positioned as an enterprise phone for mobile executives - hence, black in colour.

Today, however, one can even spot young college girls in the country, flaunting their pink BlackBerry phones.

The creators of the phone Research in Motion, say analysts, did well in "consciously" finding the pulse of the youth.

Results speak for themselves.

Cyber Media Research data reveal that RIM grabbed 13 per cent share of India's smartphone market in 2010, up from 8 per cent in 2009. "BlackBerry has now become a status symbol for college-going youth as they know that executives use it primarily. Besides, BBM allows us to keep in touch with each other," says Smit Chotai, a student from Patkar College in the city.

BlackBerry Messenger or BBM is an instant messaging app and comes with a chat-style layout, and unlimited characters.

"Given that there are over 100 smartphone models from local and international vendors, we realise that consumers have a variety of options," acknowledges RIM Enterprise Sales Director (India) Sunil Lalvani, adding: "Hence, it was a very conscious strategy to target the youth".

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Image: BlackBerry was positioned for mobile executives.

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RIM first slashed the price of BlackBerry Curve to under Rs. 10,000 and the BBM went viral after its campaign in February last year, coinciding with Valentine's Day.

BBM was a "success" in markets like Indonesia, and the RIM management believed it would work here too.

A campaign, in partnership with Vodafone, also helped.

"We are the Blackberry Boys" - the Vodafone-Blackberry advertisement - started with the image of a few suit-clad men claiming to be cool because they use BlackBerry. But soon a bunch of youngsters join the gang and start singing about chatting and surfing.

To enhance its retail distribution network, RIM also tied up with channel distributor Redington.

Currently, the company has over 4,000 multi-brand stores selling its brand. The company has also set up over 500 BlackBerry Experience Zones within multi-brand stores at key locations.

These zones are equipped with live models and a demonstrator trained by RIM.

RIM has simultaneously worked on its enterprise touch too. Last month, it forged a partnership with another channel distributor - Ingram Micro to offer BlackBerry mobility solutions to large corporate and small and medium businesses in the country.

Under the partnership, Ingram Micro India, through its network of Value Added Resellers, distributes the full portfolio of BlackBerry enterprise solutions in India, including smartphones, accessories, software and technical support services.

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Image: RIM has 4,000 multi-brand stores selling its brand.

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The services include collaboration, email, voice and applications solutions.

Apart from BlackBerry mailing solutions and other services, Ingram also offers its BlackBerry Mobile Voice System (BlackBerry MVS), points out Lalvani.

The service integrates a user's corporate phone system with a BlackBerry smartphone to provide single number reachability and extension dialling as well as corporate phone system features like hold, transfer and ad-hoc conferencing.

"To extend these collaborative tools to the enterprise, we have tie-ups with IBM and Microsoft. These tools increase productivity and also save on roaming charges for the customer and hence improve the return on investment (ROI) for enterprises," says Lalwani.

BlackBerry also has an Appworld with around 20,000 developers "developing local apps for the BB platform", asserts Lalvani.

Analysts agree that despite their global appeal, Apple iPhones have not stolen a march over BlackBerry phones - at least not in India.

Anshul Gupta, Gartner analyst, notes that while the smartphone market in 2010 was nine million, Gartner expects it to touch 12.5 million this year.

"We expect RIM shipments this year to cross 1.2 million (300,000 per quarter), where as Apple shipments are just 5-10,000 per quarter," says Gupta.

RIM phones are not tied to any carrier in India (unlike US markets), hence there's less danger of BlackBerry phones being replaced by Android phones in the enterprise market, note analysts.

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Image: iPhones have not stolen a march over BlackBerry phones.

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However, Gupta believes Android will pose a threat (bigger than iPhones) in the consumer space since RIM has not mastered "touch" interfaces which are becoming a craze.

RIM's Torch phones face competition from iPhones and Samsung's Galaxy series.

Lalwani, though, points out that "things will get better with the new BlackBerry platform".

Analysts counter that apps will have to be built for the new platform.

Second, on the BBM or messenger front, Apple unveiled the iMessage for iOS 5 which can prove a threat.

Third, RIM's Appworld comes a poor third with just around 32,000 apps as compared to Apple's 95,000 and Android's over 200,000 apps.

Lalwani, on this part, believes that good post-purchase service will help his cause.

A March study by Cybermedia Research reveals that a majority of Blackberry users (66 per cent) felt their handsets provided 'excellent' or 'very good' value for money, followed by Nokia users (58 per cent) and Samsung users (57 per cent).

In areas like Customer Care and After Sales Support, niche brands like Blackberry (86 per cent) were able to delight their customers, the research added.


Image: RIM's Torch phones face competition from iPhones and Samsung's Galaxy series.

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