KARACHI: Microsoft Lumia Windows smartphones sales are growing significantly in Pakistan with the activations of Lumia more than tripling in the first quarter of 2015 against the previous quarter.
“Considering our primary goal is to enhance the growth of the Windows Phone ecosystem through Lumia smartphone activations, it certainly is a great achievement for us and showcases the appetite in Pakistan for a third smartphone ecosystem other than Android and iOS.
Patrick Mercanton, head of marketing for Near-East, North Africa, Levant and Emerging Asia for Microsoft Mobile Devices, while talking to The News highlighted the significant achievements of the company in Pakistan.
Q. How can Microsoft compete with giants such as Samsung, HTC, Apple and Huawei in the Pakistani market?
A. The mobile market in Pakistan comprises of two main businesses: feature phones and smartphones. In the feature phones category, Microsoft is still considered to be the pioneer thanks to its Nokia feature phones, which provided incredible value for money with the legendary design, build, quality and simplicity.
In this realm, we aim to continue connecting more people to the world through the introduction of Internet connectivity features and touch interface at more affordable price points.
We still have a solid hold on more than half of the feature phone market in Pakistan. And while an increasing number of consumers in Pakistan are migrating to smartphones, many still prefer the simplicity of a feature phone, especially when it is enabled with Internet connectivity.
Our Nokia entry phones, such as the Nokia 105, continue to occupy the top selling phone spots in Pakistan. Our feature phone market share is even growing; and the new Nokia 215 is ramping up successfully.
In the local smartphones space, the Windows Phone OS is second only to Android in terms of volume. But the market is still far too one - OS sided, and we are confident that our growing Microsoft Lumia activations will translate into a permanent shift towards a more balanced OS ecosystem market.
Tripling our Lumia smartphone activations last quarter was a strong indicator that Pakistanis are indeed interested in using another OS. The introduction of Windows10, in the near future, with its cross-screens benefits will undoubtedly add momentum to the Windows OS ecosystem overall.
Q. Do you think that Windows as an operating system can continue to survive in front of Android and IOS?
A. You are definitely right about one thing – we have moved beyond a battle of smartphones to a war of ecosystems. And not only will Windows ecosystem survive; but it shall grow – and it is in fact growing. Previously as Nokia, and now as Microsoft, we believe that two ecosystems are not enough to sustain the mobile market and give people enough of an experiential choice. Consumers all over the world are showcasing an appetite for a third ecosystem in Windows which shifts the momentum on our side.
Windows smartphones are gaining ground around the world by finding space amongst a sea of increasingly undifferentiated Android smartphones on the one side, and a somewhat elitist value proposition with Apple’s iOS. The last 12 months have been all about developing our presence in the affordable smartphones space with notable success. Some countries in the NENA Region, including Pakistan, achieved more than double activations as compared to last year. Windows Phone is now officially the second smartphone ecosystem by volumes sales. The activations in Pakistan were more than 200 percent. We created the affordable smartphones space with the Nokia ASHA brand that was immensely successful in the country. Pakistan is on top in the world for Lumia535 market share in the hotly fought after $100-150 price band.
Now we are upgrading those Nokia ASHA consumers to Microsoft Lumia with very strong value propositions, including: dual SIM, front and back cameras, and incredibly fast and power efficient dual core and quad core Qualcomm Snapdragon processors. Some people stop at specs when they buy a smartphone, but in reality, just like when you buy a car you need to look under the hood and check where the specs come from. Would you expect the same quality and power, and expect to pay the same price, for a 2 liter Turbo engine from a premium sports car maker as from a low-end entry car maker? Probably not. Well the same goes for smartphones. With a Lumia you get higher quality parts such as Karl Zeiss optics, Qualcomm Snapdragon processors, ultra-efficient batteries, and the list goes on. Sure you can cheaper 1.2 GHz dualcore processors and cheaper megapixels – but the actual experience you will get from them will probably disappoint you.
Q. Whom you are targeting in the Pakistani market?
A. Currently, our focus is around the Rs8,000-20,000 smartphone space, because that is where the smartphones’ growth is highest and where the pie size is largest. Democratising smartphones and their capabilities have always been an important driver for us, but we are also planning to further engage in the higher smartphone price bands.
Lumia Windows Phones tend to target people who are already engaged with Windows OS through their PC; such people prefer having the same OS and tile based user interface. And as Windows 10 spreads across PC screens later this year, you will see an increased interest in being able to enjoy seamless experience across screens.
Q. What is your vision and expectations for Pakistani market?
A. We expect our share of the smartphone market to increase in line with our growing Lumia activations. The local smartphone market is structured just right for our existing and future product portfolios. Pakistan has always been a key market for Nokia, and it is a key market for Microsoft Mobile Devices as well.
The move of Lumia from Nokia to Microsoft also opens the door to a sizable B2B business opportunity, where the suit of Microsoft products and services surrounding the Lumia devices will prove to be an important incentive to close the deal on smartphones for prosumers, small & medium size businesses, as well as big corporations.
Q. Do you think that the Pakistani consumer needs to know more about Lumia devices, especially after changing the famous Nokia brand?
A. The introduction of the Microsoft brand in our Lumia smartphones has actually gone very well. Consumers have had no issue with adopting and trusting the Microsoft brand as a smartphone brand, especially when carrying the established legitimacy of the Lumia brand, nurtured by Nokia for several years now. Microsoft is a trusted and esteemed brand just like Nokia was. And Microsoft also encompasses a “professional” aspect due to its important B2B business – this was an added bonus for the Lumia brand. The Microsoft brand also enables consumers to think beyond phones when making their purchase – they know that a Microsoft Windows Phone will work harmoniously with Windows based PCs and tablets. And consumers are increasingly buying into an ecosystem, not just a smartphone.
Q. Has Microsoft achieved any landmark for any Lumia phone in Pakistan?
A. Over the last couple of years, the Pakistani smartphone market has tended to be increasingly dominated by local brands sourcing very affordably priced Android phones from China. The combination of high specs and affordable prices with locally developed advertising has undoubtedly hit the spot in the market at a time when we lacked the right products to compete. But we believe that Pakistanis still value the quality and reliability that come from established global brands. Today, the dynamics are changing and the big global brands are countering with strong affordable smartphone offerings.
And we are confident that Pakistani consumers will see that two cameras may be both 5 megapixels, but that this does not make them the same in terms of experience quality. Our most successful Lumia smartphone ever is the Lumia 535, which was also the first to carry the Microsoft branding. It looks to be the highest selling smartphone in Lumia’s history in our region. And its development was driven by emerging market demands. Its wide-angle 5 megapixel front facing camera, and a spacious 5 inch display at an affordable price of under PKR 15K were the biggest selling points for its success. Its achievement is a testament to how consumers value the Microsoft brand in the mobile space in Pakistan.
Q. What distinguishes Lumia devices in the Pakistani market? Which is the lowest priced device offered by Microsoft and how is it different from the device of other brands?
A. Microsoft Lumia devices offer Nokia’s build quality with the latest Windows OS and interface. Their design is robust, vibrant, colorful, and engineered for optimal efficiency. They simply stand-out in a sea of Android devices. The Tiles interface is unique; and studies have shown that after just a few hours of getting used to the new interface, the wide majority of consumers prefer it.
Our latest addition, Lumia 430 DualSim is also the most affordable Windows phone ever, and comes with windows 8.1 and shall be upgradeable to Windows 10 in the coming future. There is no Windows light or sub-Windows All Lumia phones deliver the same great software experience, with access to Microsoft services such as free OneDrive cloud storage, Skype and other services. So whatever Lumia you buy, at whatever price point, you always get the latest Windows software unlike Android and iOS.