Branding: Focus on the back end, not just the facade

Oct 30, 2017-

Upon completing his bachelor’s degree from New Delhi, Ashish Jindal returned to Kathmandu to start his own venture. In 2004, Jindal founded Paramount Electronics, which initially served as the authorised distributor for Electrolux and Panasonic’s audio visuals in Nepal.

After recurring losses, Jindal let go off both these companies, before becoming the authorised distributor of Nokia mobile phones in the country. In this interview with The Post’s Alisha Sijapati, Jindal talks about the momentum gained and lost by Nokia over the course of the past decade and shares his experiences about branding your product well in a cut-throat market. Excerpts: 

Before smartphones became so popular, Nokia was once the leading mobile brand worldwide. There are many smartphones now that have created a niche for themselves in the market. In this context, how is Nokia rebranding itself?

Nokia has now come back to the mobile space after a hiatus. The entire company had issues with Microsoft taking over then relinquishing control, and later finally forming a company with Foxconn, an electronic manufacturing giant called HMD Group.

Nokia’s partnership with Foxconn leaves a lot of potential for the brand become big once again. Nokia still believes in their old strategies, which are—strong battery back up and durability.

Although, Nokia went through a difficult phase, it believes in selling quality products. Nokia would rather not sell any of its products than spoil its brand. Nokia’s phones are available in 120 countries and the biggest advantage it has is its experience.

Right now, Nokia has three android models but by 2018, Nokia plans to come up with 10 different models. Our goal is to cater to every segment of the society with prices that range from Rs 9,000 to Rs 90,000. 

What are your strategies for maintaining the image of such beloved international brand in Nepal?

Maintaining Nokia’s high standards is our promise to our customers. Nokia is a well-known brand all over the world and customers do have very high expectations from us.

Although our business didn’t do very well for over five years, we are slowly picking up and the credit goes to the goodwill of the brand. Currently, there are multiple brands of phones in the market.

Customers may be curious or doubtful about them and may not connect with their brands. But that is not the case with Nokia. For many people Nokia was the first brand of mobile phones they owned and the connection is still very strong.

People know what Nokia is and now that we are back in the market, we are looking forward to rebuilding our brand. We don’t have a choice but to 

deliver the best products. 

How has the demand in the smartphone sector changed in the country?

If you compare the cell phone market now to two decades back, most customers owned a Nokia phone.

Nokia had an overall 65 percent of share in the market but things don’t remain constant, the market changes. There are ample brands now from Samsung, Apple, Huawei to Xiaomi, and all these companies have delivered excellent products.

Customers had doubts about them earlier but they all have lived up to their quality and have delivered. For a brand to sustain, their quality and service should be impeccable.

These brands have lived up to their promises, if they had not, it would have been impossible to survive. The market has become very competitive and I think this competition is healthy for us.

Today everyone is vying for market space, in this process it is the consumers that are in advantage. There are multiple affordable choices now and it is a win-win situation for the consumers. 

While many companies are improving their specs with every new smartphone 

model, why has Nokia gone back to selling its original phones again?

Nokia’s small feature phones were there right from the beginning. Nokia has solely survived because of these feature phones, otherwise Nokia might have shut down globally by now.

Nokia will never shift its focus from its feature phones, we want to capitalise on it. As much as we would want to develop smartphones, we plan to continue to drive our feature phones equally.

Nokia recently came up with its iconic model 3310. The idea was to make people re-live their old memories. I was quite sceptical whether this model would pick up in the market as it costs Rs 5,000, whereas, other feature phones come for Rs 1500-Rs 1600.

But the results have been astounding. So far, we have sold over 12,000 units of the 3310 model and we are always running out of stock.  

How challenging is it for a company to live up to the customers’ expectations when promoting an international brand?

It is a huge challenge to live up to customers’ expectations. Generally, a customer expects better performance from the phone than the price they have paid for. If one pays Rs 20,000 for a phone, they expect performance at par with a Rs 50,000 phone.

Nevertheless, with the recent phones Nokia has come up with, we have received favourable feedback. Our feature phones are placed in 1,300 outlets and smartphones in 1,000 outlets. By 2018, we plan to launch vigorous promotions and marketing schemes. At present, we are focusing on our service department.

For five years our business was slow and our services also had its limitations. We are trying our best to develop our back end. This will give us a firm backbone to live up to our customer’s expectations. 

What kind of skills should a brand strategist have?

A brand strategist and a brand manager cannot do anything until the back end is strong. Ultimately, if the back end doesn’t support you, your brand will go nowhere.

There is no point creating brand and marketing strategies if your product has weak quality and services. My advice for the brand strategists is that they need to experience the product that they will sell in the market, go back and see what more can be done.

Nokia believes in having long term goals, we don’t rush and run and we don’t try to do things overnight. We believe in going slow and becoming stronger over time.

Rather than painting the town with the brand, it is essential for brand strategists to know their products, its market, and then to sell well. 

What would you say are the three keys to branding yourself well in the market?

You need to give value to the customers, deliver on promised services and spend well on marketing, if you’re confident about the product. Focus on distribution and brand activity.

You could spend a fortune on marketing your product and reach the number one position for two years. But if the back end doesn’t support you, it will take no time for your brand to fizzle out. 

Published: 30-10-2017 08:52

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