Silver lining for Nokia

East and Central Africa and Patrick Henchie, Head of Product and Operations in Sub sahara Africa display the Nokia 6 and Nokia 3310 launched.


HMD global Oy, the licence holder for the Nokia brand, seems to be giving Nokia 3310 a fresh run-around. New version of this mid-range phone that stole many peoples’ hearts some 17 years ago is still remarkable. Back in the days, the few features the model was synonymous with was not only a torch and a ringtone composer, but also heritage of quality, simplicity and reliability. And if you were lucky to own one, you know you could stay connected regardless of how remote your village was. Those devices did not come with issues of “no” network.

In an interview at the National Museums of Kenya, Joseph Omunakwe, the general manager of HMD for West, East and Central Africa, talked of this Nokia launch not being a come back, but rather a new chapter.

According to Omunakwe, Nokia brand is still strong and chances are that for the decades it has been around, Kenyans know it as most iconic and recognisable, hence tackling the frontier of sales should be easy.

“It is based on what we know about the markets,” he says. “The market loves Nokia, and Nokia loves Kenya and it is clear. Just in the West we are talking about impressive brand awareness. It is 97% globally. That is amazing. In Kenya it is about 99 % brand awareness and what we know about the market and about our fans. There are definite experiences that they are looking for… the heritage… That is why we bring Nokia phones in to the market.”

Mid-range phones, which are popular as feature phones, have become less likely to be envied by most young generation. A lot of the time, M-Pesa phone operators are the ones who usually operate feature phones. Perhaps it is because of the mindset that it stays for long with power when fully charged. But it seems like Mr Omunakwe is optimistic that their brand is still in touch with many people, and that things will go as planned.

“This is a new chapter, a new era for Nokia smartphones. Our devices have always been in the market. So we have done extensive research and data points suggest that our consumers are looking for new kind of experience. They are looking at receiving that same heritage of Nokia; reliability, quality, durability, and of course the torch,” he says with a smile.

Still drawing on the hallmarks of the big brand, the general manager says that they are mainly focusing on a new generation of fans with the fresh designs, and urges Kenyans to simply check out the devices and go for what suits them. Joining the return of the Nokia 3310 that is currently retailing at Sh5, 299 are Nokia 6, Nokia 5 and Nokia 3, which are beautifully crafted smartphone range running on latest Android platform.

The Nokia 6, available in three distinct colours of matte black, silver and tempered blue, retails at Sh24, 999 while the Nokia 5 which comes in four distinct colours of matte black, silver, tempered blue and copper sells at Sh19, 999. The Sh15,000 worth Nokia 3 on the other hand, boasts of seamlessly integrated 8MP wide aperture cameras (front and back), and packs a truly premium quality smartphone experience into its compact and elegant form. The devices combine superior craftsmanship, distinctive design and powerful entertainment features, and are now available through mobile phone service provider, Safaricom, and through selected retailers across the country.

“Even though we have fragmented market of different brands, that is something that has been missing and we have decided to bring about this new chapter of Nokia smartphones (on android to the market) and so far reception has been amazing,” says Omunakwe.

This comes in the wake of a tough market where hundreds of cheaper smartphones especially targeting the bottom of the market, are easily available. Numerous electronics shops mainly found in down town of say, River road or Luthuli, are doing all they can do (including selling of fake phones) in order to thrive. But amidst the dark competition, where counterfeits too are involved, Nokia will not stop growing thanks to big money and proper market research.

“On a global level there is a big investment on marketing. We don’t comment on this but we are making huge investments. We have started campaigns in Kenya… furthermore, what will change the market today is structures,” he says firmly, adding that the phone manufacturer takes due care in the materials that they use, which pass through rigorous process to make sure that what comes out has that “iconic” heritage of Nokia.

That moment you just love old school, and finally a remarkable brand returns to the market, the end result is always sweet. But weird thing is, when Nokia devices were launched in the country, the stakes were high. Electioneering time it was. With elections uncertainty, you know it can be difficult to thrive. It is against the backdrop that the one question on the lips of people in the mobile phone sector is whether this is the best time? What’s Nokia’s risk philosophy?

“If you look at our campaign theme which is “uniteFor” and our consumers are using that hash tag during times of elections across many states in Africa, that is a time for tension… I really think that this is a good time to get to the market and let Kenyans receive that message (unite for)… Unite for is a very good one because first and foremost, the consumer is at the heart of what we do,” says Omunakwe.