Justin Maier - VP, HMD Global SSA

The chances of you recognizing the Nokia brand are set at 95-percent globally. However, it has not been a smooth ride for Nokia, after a series of “bad decisions” and missed opportunities led to what we may term as “the downfall of an icon”.

Nokia was doing well until it wasn’t. Symbian OS could not compete with Android, so they went with Windows Mobile, with their Lumia line of smartphones. A few years down the line, they realized something was amiss and released the Nokia X line that ran Android underneath with a heavily skinned UI and no Google Apps. Talk about jumping from a burning platform into the inferno… We all know how things went from there.

On 1 December 2016, a team of former Nokia executives decided it was time to regain the glory of the brand. They registered a company under the name HMD Global and acquired exclusive rights to develop and market smartphones and feature phones under the “Nokia” brand, and since 2014, Nokia devices were back on sale.

Read More: Brief History of the Relationship Between HMD Global and Nokia

Brand Awareness

“Nokia as a brand is entrenched in the hearts of consumers here in Kenya and in East Africa,” HMD Global SSA Vice President, Justin Maier notes. The Company, HMD Global, is officially bringing Nokia back to Kenya with the launch of Android-powered Nokia 3, 5 and 6 and the OG Nokia 3310. HMD Global is betting on nostalgia and “former glory” to push these devices in the country.

“the consumer knew us intimately as a brand”

The company initially thought that old Nokia fans would be the ones scrambling for the new devices, “the consumer knew us intimately as a brand,” added Justin Maier, but when they launched in China at the beginning of this year, they were surprised that 60-percent of their sales went to the youth.

The strategy had to change and they now had to focus on their new found crush, millennials. This is what HMD has in mind as they enter the Kenyan smartphone space that is heavily infested by cheap (read affordable) smartphones and the price is what determines whether a device is worth consumer attention or not.

Putting the customer first

When the Nokia 6 was announced at the beginning of the year, most people were questioning the decision by HMD to go with a mid-ranger as their “comeback device” as opposed to a proper flagship. Mr Maier explains, their research showed that 30-percent of the world’s smartphones are sold at price points of between $100 and $250.

For this reason, the company had to settle for a mid-ranger, a decision they do not regret as they received over one million pre-orders in China alone and their first flash sale sold out within a minute.

“…Consumers don’t want to be boxed in”

“When HMD was birthed, the key message was ‘we need to do things for what the consumer wants’…. consumers don’t want to be boxed in,” says Maier. To add to their focus on “customers first”, the new Nokia smartphones are running pure Android, thanks to their partnership with Google. The company wanted to give its consumers pure android with no skins, no layers and most importantly, no bloatware (those third party apps that come pre-installed), thus providing a streamlined experience, quick updates and lag free software.

Taking Kenya head-on

“We are aware of the competition and we know we have a lot of work to do,” starts Maier. He notes that HMD will leverage Nokia’s old partnerships such as Midcom and Safaricom to distribute their phones and also informs us that they will have a lot of community engagement, starting with the #UniteFor campaign that is meant to recite Nokia’s old tagline, “Connecting People” and an ambassador program.

HMD is aware that device warranty is a purchasing factor in Kenya and the company has put in place customer service like we have honestly not seen before. Nokia feature phones will have a swap model warranty for 12 months, meaning that a customer who brings in a feature phone for repair, will instead get a new device. Smartphones will have the traditional 12-months care warranty.

It’s true that the Nokia brand holds a special place in the hearts of many, but times have changed and whether or not Nokia devices will have an instant hit in the market is something we cannot know for sure. However, the topping on the ice cream is, Nokia seems to be knowing what they are doing, at least for now.

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