Joseph Umunakwe, General Manager at HMD Global, West, East and Central Africa.

General Manager, HMD Global, West, East and Central Africa, Mr. Joseph Umunakwe, spoke to Emma Okonji on the new digital revolution driving Nokia mobile phones. Excerpts:

What is the relationship between HMD Global and Nokia mobile phones?

HMD Global is headquartered in Espoo, Finland, and it is the home of Nokia phones. HMD designs and markets a range of smartphones and feature phones targeted at a range of consumers and price points. With a commitment to innovation and quality, HMD is the proud exclusive licensee of the Nokia brand for phones and tablets globally.

Nokia unveiled new sets of mobile phones at the recently concluded Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. What informed the release and who are the target audience?

Our zeal for innovation is driving us in the release of our latest mobile phone devices. What informed the launch could be captured in two ways. Firstly, we are expanding our portfolio in Nigeria through the release of three new devices into the Nigerian market. The devices are Nokia 7 Plus, Nokia 6 and Nokia 1 smartphones. The Nokia 7 Plus smartphone brand is a flagship phone with great and exciting performance. Secondly, we are making a new statement on our partnership with Google to bring secured and up to date android on our mobile phones. We are also bringing back the old Nokia 8110, which is a feature phone and a 4G device.

 Three new sets of Nokia smartphones were announced at the Mobile World Congress, but only two of them, the Nokia 7 Plus and the Nokia 1 were recently made available in Nigeria. What could have informed this decision?

We have Nokia fans all over the world, including Nigeria and we promise to give our fans good experience with our mobile phones that are loaded with modern technologies that will revolutionise businesses and lifestyles of our customers. We just launched the Nokia 7 Plus, Nokia 6, and Nokia 1 smartphones and we are also coming up with our feature phone, which is the Nokia 8110. Just recently we released the Nokia 7 Plus and Nokia 1 smartphones into the Nigeria market, and these smartphone come with modern technology that is built around quality, durability and ease of use. They all run on the latest secured and up to date Android Operating System.

 What are the unique features of the Nokia phones, considering the fact that your competitors are also innovating to woo more customers?

 Nokia is a brand known for outstanding innovation and we will continue to build on our innovation. We are passionate about solving consumers’ challenges and at the same time delighting them through our cutting-edge mobile phone technology. So, one of the unique features about these new phones is that we are bringing a new level of imaging technology to bear on our smart devices. We are extending our partnership to enable us deliver direct image capabilities on the mobile phones. For example, the Nokia 7 Plus is coming with Pro-Camera mode that allows customers to use the camera in a more professional way. We are also bringing two camera lenses together at the same time to enable customers produce images in the form of photos that are true to life. With the inbuilt technology in Nokia 7 Plus, customers can tell their own story with true life photos that will be produced from the camera phone. We are also committed to the Android Operating System that allows customers to have great feel about our latest Nokia mobile phones. The unique differentiator is that the Android Operating System we have deployed is upgradeable and allows customers to get the highest and latest version of Android Operating System.

What value will the new Nokia mobile phones add to customer experience in the area of aesthetics?

What customers can always enjoy about the Nokia mobile phones  is the aesthetic design that gives customers a great feel of belonging to Nokia brand of mobile phones. We do not compromise in quality of material when it comes to aesthetics. The Nokia 7 Plus comes in two distinct and attractive colours, the black copper and white copper. The Nokia 6 also comes in different colours, black copper, white iron and blue gold. The Nokia 1 comes in red, yellow and blue colours.

 

There is a noticeable shift from features phone to smartphones among mobile phone manufacturers. What could be the reason for this. Is it that the value for feature phones is diminishing?

I cannot speak for other mobile phone manufacturers, but for us as HMD Global, we still have the feature phones as integral part of our strategy to reach out to customers, notwithstanding the fact that we produce a great deal of smartphones. Currently, about 1.3 billion people globally are still using feature phones and we will continue to meet their needs and taste. For example, our Nokia 3310 is a feature phone and it is still selling in the Nigerian market. Nokia 150, Nokia 130 and Nokia 105 are all feature phones that are redesigned for today’s generation of people and these are varieties of feature phones from which our customers can make their choices. So we will continue to innovate in this space because we know that our consumers have choice.

 Nokia used to be the leader in mobile phone manufacturing before it stepped aside. What could have informed the decision to relaunch the Nokia mobile phone brand into the market?

 HMD Global is proud to be the home of Nokia phones and we have been encouraged by what we have seen and the feedback we get from our fans all over the world. Since we began to write a new chapter in the mobile phone space, the enthusiasm from our fans has been very high and we are motivated by this, to relaunch the Nokia mobile phones into different markets, including the Nigerian market. Since we relaunched last year, we have introduce different set of smartphones and feature phones, driven by the latest mobile phone technologies. We are grateful and thankful to our fans globally for believing in our brand of mobile phones and in the technology driving the phones. In Nigeria, we have large number of fans that strongly believe in our brand and we are grateful to them for the support they have given to our brand.

What are your strategies to regain your leadership position, having left the mobile phone space for some time now?

The consumer is at the heart of our strategies and our entire innovation philosophy is built around improving consumers’ experience and solving their challenges. For example, our Nokia 7 Plus has two active days battery life, designed to address the challenges that come with poor power situation in Nigeria. What we have done is to take away consumers’ pains and challenges in the area of poor electricity supply, which is a challenge for Nigerians. So the Nokia 7 Plus, once it is fully charged, can last for two days and more depending on the usage. So we are innovating and focusing more on the consumer to regain our earlier leadership position. We will always launch our devices on the latest Android Operating System to ensure that our consumers get the latest updates in terms of security and innovation, all designed to delight our consumers.

 Nigerians have enjoyed 3G mobile phone devices, 4G mobile phone devices and they are looking forward to enjoying 5G mobile phone devices. To what extent are you in line with consumers’ taste and choice of lifestyle?

 We have launched our mobile devices on 3G and 4G technologies. The recent launch on the latest Android Operating System are all driven by 4G technology and as consumers’ taste increase for new technology, Nokia will always innovate in line with consumers taste and lifestyle. We will always ensure that consumers have access to the best and latest technology because this is crucial for us as a brand.

Looking at HMD Global from the global perspective, what kind of partnership do you have, to successfully push the Nokia brand into the hands of consumers?

 HMD Global, as a global brand, has a unique partnership module. Zeiss Optics is one of our partners in the area of imaging technology at the global level and we also have local partners in different countries where we operate. In Nigeria, we have strong local partners who take our products to the market. Aside partners, we also have distributors and a chain of retailers who always ensure availability of our products for consumers.

 In terms of after-sales service, what is the strength of your customer care centres in Nigeria?

From inception, we have promised our consumers of secure and durable mobile devices and we have kept that promise over the years. In addition to that, all our mobile devices sold in Nigeria comes with one year warranty. But even at that, we have service centres spread across cities in Nigeria, where customers can fix their phones, should the phone develop a fault. We have 53 collection points, where customers who are far from the service centres, could drop their phones, from where they will be taken to the nearest service centre for prompt repairs. So we take after-sales service very seriously because we believe strongly in the consumer.

What is the impact of Nokia smartphone brand on the Nigerian economy?

 In every geographical location where we operate, we ensure that our operations are in line with the laws of the country. Nokia Smartphone brand is a technology company, using technology solutions to empower both the government and the citizenry to do more and we will continue to do just that. We provide access to technology and when technology is made available to the people, it opens a new world of growth for them, including the government. Mobile technology has enabled businesses in Nigeria, especially in the eCommerce business, using their phones to access the internet.

 Accessibility of products is key in any business. How accessible and affordable are the newly released Nokia mobile phones?

 We do everything possible to make our mobile phones accessible and affordable. For instance, the Nokia 1 is most accessible and affordable, just like other models that were released. The Nokia 7 is a flagship device with flagship performance, yet the pricing is low in order to maintain affordability. The Nokia 6 is an award winning device and it comes cheap and affordable. For us, premium devices must not be priced so high because they are meant to be used by the majority of the people.