Q&A: “We are still a major player in mobile,” says Tom Erskine, Nokia Head of Smart Devices for India, Middle East & Africa

Nokia have had well publicised financial woes since Stephen Elop took over as Chief Executive, including shutdowns in Finland and thousands of employees being laid off worldwide. But the company soldiers on and, if we are to believe Elop, is on the comeback trail.

HumanIPO caught up with Tom Erskine, Nokia’s Head of Smart Devices for India, Middle East & Africa, to get an idea what this comeback entails and where Africa fits into Nokia’s strategy and plans.

HumanIPO: As the Head of Smart Devices, which Nokia devices does your portfolio include?

Tom Erskine: Nokia has a wide portfolio, making sure we cater to a number of different customer needs

The Nokia Asha range is our major mobile phone brand, with the key strategic goal of connecting the next billion consumers to the Internet. These include full touch device like the Nokia Asha 306 and Nokia Asha 311, which have recently been classified as smartphones due to the compelling proposition and functionality they bring.

Nokia Lumia is the brand Nokia uses for its high end smartphones, all of which are powered by the Windows Phone operating system. From the affordable Lumia 510, all the way through to the Nokia Lumia 920. The Nokia Lumia 920 has been dubbed, ‘the world’s most innovative smartphone’ for the incredible features like the PureView camera, featuring Nokia’s Optical Image Stabilization technology, and Nokia City Lens, a virtual reality app that allows you to see so much more in your surroundings.

Many technology analysts, journalists and commentators had written off Nokia as a major player in mobile (specifically smartphones). Are the signs encouraging for the future of Nokia, especially in Africa?

I think people write Nokia off at their peril. We are still a major player in mobile, and the positive signs we are seeing from both the Asha and Lumia lines are incredibly encouraging.

Africa is an essential market for Nokia, and one that we are fully invested in.

Is the Nokia Asha range your answer to the relatively cheap entry level Android smartphones entering the African market?

We don’t look at it as a comparison of operating systems, as only a small number of consumers look at it that way.

Instead, we look at the features that consumers want in their devices. The new Asha touch smartphones feature hi-res touch screens, a vibrant store for apps, great cameras and fantastic messaging applications like WhatsApp.

We believe that they are very competitive in their categories.

Will the Asha range continue running the Series 40 operating system or is it likely to move to a version of Windows Mobile Phone OS in future?

These are distinctive products. Asha is based on Series 40, Lumia on the new version of Windows Phone. We are fully invested in both platforms.

How are the sales of Nokia smart devices performing in Africa as compared to the rest of the world, are they different?

We don’t break out our sales results to focus just on Africa, but we can see that the African consumer desires the same things that a number of others across the globe do.

We are a very locally invested company, and we carefully track consumer trends from across the continent to make sure we are bringing the products, services and solutions that the large variety of different consumers in Africa need.

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