Facing stiff competition from the likes of Apple, Samsung and even Indian manufacturers like Micromax, BlackBerry has been trying to regain lost ground. In fact, making its devices more attractive to customers has become something of a Holy Grail for the company in recent months. According to research firm IDC’s latest report, its share in the Indian smartphone market stood at two per cent in April-June 2013; falling from seven per cent during the same period last year. Considering that IDC’s study shows that the Indian smartphone market grew by 229 per cent year-on-year to 12.8 million smartphones in Q3 2013, it puts the company’s performance in perspective.
BlackBerry’s failing fortunes is worrisome for the erstwhile smartphone giant as it has just launched new flagship models such as the Z10, Q10, Q5 and Z30 on the new and much-touted BlackBerry 10 (BB10) platform. One reason for this is the strange pricing strategy that BlackBerry adopts. Apart from the BlackBerry Q5, which cost around Rs 24,000 at launch, both Z10 and Q10 launched in the Rs 40,000 plus bracket, raising quite a few eyebrows. The latest entrant to its stable, the Z30 (launched in October) is also retailing at a price of Rs 39,990 (approx).
No wonder then that making its devices cheaper to the customer through a variety of offers seems to be the company’s new favoured strategy. Yesterday, the company announced a festive period price of Rs 38,900 on the Q10, which will be valid till January 26, 2014 and be available across India. The Q10 was launched earlier this year at a price of Rs 44,990 (approx), with Ranbir Kapoor as the brand ambassador. The company has also announced that it will be offering discounts on some of its most popular apps (with some apps being available for free) on the BlackBerry World. The offers, the company said, will be available through the month of December, along with daily free giveaway offers on third-party apps such as Angry Bird, Pacemaker, Monopoly, etc. No festive offers on the Z30 have been announced yet.
In September, the price of the Z10 was reduced to Rs 29,990 (from approximately Rs 43,490, at its launch in February). The time period of this ‘limited festive offer’ has not been revealed. Earlier, the company had also initiated a number of exchange and easy EMI schemes on the Z10.
Ashish Gupta, Director – Marketing of BlackBerry India, informed us that a similar festive offer was also made available to existing BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 (BES 10) customers, which allowed them to buy the Q10, Z10 and Q5 for Rs 39,990, Rs 29,000 and Rs 22,699 respectively. This offer expired on 30 October.
Speaking on the company’s marketing strategy for the festive period, Gupta said, “BlackBerry has been focused on more direct methods of connecting with our target audiences, including on-ground activations at coffee outlets, colleges, etc. We expect to do the same with the Q10 festive offer as well. Ranbir is our brand ambassador and we will continue to leverage him for brand campaigns accordingly.” Though exact details of the company’s marketing plans were not disclosed, it seems that the company will be relying on in-store promotions as well as radio ads across cities such as Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai.
BlackBerry also told us that the company has no plans to carry out print or TV campaigns as of now. Gupta claimed that the Q10 has been doing “very well” in India, especially in the enterprise segment, though details about units sold were not available. “With the launch of our limited period offer, we expect a lot more traction from a larger set of potential users, including the urban youth,” he added.
BlackBerry’s bet on its BB10 platform (on which its latest devices: the Q10, Z10, Q5 and Z30 are based) has yet to yield the kind of results the company was hoping for and lower prices of its flagship models could be a viable option. With the Android platform enabling manufacturers to offer great functionality at very low costs, having a stable of devices at multiple price points is a must for companies. One just has to look at the success the likes of Samsung and Nokia have had in India to understand this.
Anshul Gupta, Principal Research Analyst at Gartner agrees. “BlackBerry has not been able to create a huge portfolio of devices. When you look at other players, they launch 3-4 devices across different price points in a month, while BlackBerry releases about one or two in six months. If BlackBerry has serious aspirations to regain its lost No. 1 status, it will need to expand its stable with products at different price points,” he opined.
BlackBerry has been plagued by a number of issues in recent years and many have even sought to write them off as a major force in the smartphone market of the future. However, as Nokia proved with the Asha series or Micromax with its Canvas series, the launch of just one intelligent product can turn the tide of fortune. The question is whether BlackBerry has that special something in its arsenal.