23 October 2017 13:58:52 IST

Will nostalgia work for Nokia?

Considering new phone buyers are young millennials, can the handset maker recapture market share?

Last week, I bought a new mobile phone. Now, before you dismiss this news with a ‘so-what’s-new’ flick of your hand, let me tell you — it was a Nokia . And I was very excited about this phone.

But before that, I need to tell you that this is not my main phone but my second phone. Like many diehard Apple fans, my first phone continues to be an iPhone with its ever-dying battery! But back to the excitement. A few months back, I was a judge at a case-study competition in a business school, and the brand being discussed was (hold your breath) Nokia. I heard millennials say that the greatest thing going for Nokia’s revival was the nostalgia factor.

I was intrigued, as I knew for a fact that many people who are currently in their 50s had Nokia as their first phone. As they grew in affluence (and also in waist size), they moved up to the more expensive Nokia models. But I wondered if the recommendation was feasible, considering that the primary phone buyers in India today are youngsters. Would the young user have the same nostalgia towards the iconic brand of yesteryear? But let me tell you my own story.

Remember the mid-nineties?

Even earlier, I had a special affinity for mobile phones. The agency I headed then was responsible for the launch of Birla AT&T (this brand later became Idea) in Pune. Working with the AT&T team was a great experience. If memory serves (and, I must confess, that it is today almost as reliable as the Australian batting middle order), we paid a princely sum of ₹17.88 for a minute of talk-time and ₹8 for incoming!

People used mobile phones primarily to give missed calls so that the recipient would call back from the landline. The generation had mixed feelings about mobile phones, assuming it was a luxury and an encroachment into their privacy, among other things. But amidst all this, one brand stood head and shoulders above the rest — Nokia, with its Indian sounding name.

With Nokia, they could manage to send SMSes and give missed calls. In fact, the brand had, at one point, a dominant market share of over 80 per cent if reports are to be believed. Unlike Motorola which, despite being the inventor of the mobile phone, struggled in India (due to its practice of shipping those phones that did not sell in the US), Nokia actually created phones for India and Indians, which sold like hot cakes.

Here is the ad for one of their top selling models of the past — the Nokia 1100.



Back to the present

So, the weekend before Diwali, I asked my colleagues which phone they would recommend in the ₹15,000 range. I got a number of recommendations like Moto G, Samsung, Redmi and even Nokia. I strongly believe that timing is everything in marketing and, on the same day, there was a huge ad for the new Nokia phone series in the newspapers.

I went to Reliance Digital to check out the phones. I must say that the service across the board in retail outlets in India has improved phenomenally — including Reliance Digital. The sales girl kept pushing Oppo, making me wonder if she thought I was PC Sreeram without hair, as she kept talking about the camera.

I asked for the Nokia and ended up buying it. My wife, who is the techno wizard in the family, reassured me that the interface with Google was very clean. Like most husbands, I have this enormous propensity to agree unconditionally to what my wife says and ended up buying the Nokia phone for less than ₹13,000.

Will Nokia succeed?

I know that my forecasts are usually wrong, so I won’t even venture in that direction. But I believe the brand has great equity, at least with older users. It may not be as glamorous as its Chinese competitors or as large a spender as Samsung. But it could be a good, reliable phone that has its own niche in a cut-throat market convoluted by the great online bazaar.

A lot will depend on user experience and how vocal consumers are about the phone and its functions. I am waiting to see how my phone and my favourite brand will perform in the marketplace!

Nokia, Nostalgia, Nokia 8, Idea Birla AT&T, Mobile Phones, Feature Phones, Motorola, Nokia 1100, Chinese Phones, Competition, Samsung