BlackBerry India MD Sunil Dutt quits

Nandagopal Rajan   New Delhi     Last Updated: March 9, 2013  | 00:42 IST

When Business Today met Sunil Dutt at the BlackBerry office in Gurgaon in the last week of February, the managing director of BlackBerry India was surrounded by many generations of devices from the company. But at the top of his mind was a device that, sitting on a dock, held the pride of place of his table, the brand new Z10.

Despite his confidence, there was palpable anxiety about whether the flagship phone would do well in India, one of BlackBerry's top markets globally. Within days of the gala launch in Mumbai, reports suggested that despite its rather steep price the Z10 was doing quite well in India . But on Friday, hours after BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Heins was quoted as saying that even he was surprised by the popularity of the new model in India, Sunil Dutt stepped down as the MD of the company's India operations.

Confirming the move, a BlackBerry spokesperson said Rick Costanzo, Executive Vice President for Global Sales, will take over the leadership of the "talented management team in India as we start the search for a new Sales lead as soon as possible". The statement added that India is an extremely important market for BlackBerry and its aim is to continue to build on with the launch of BlackBerry 10.

Optimistic about the sales of the Z10 , Dutt had told BT how there is a good market for even high-end devices in India. "Look at all the malls that sell just high-end mechandise. There is definitely an appetite for these products," he had said. He was right. On Thursday, agencies quoted Heins as saying that shipments that were supposed to last five days sold out in just two in India. So definitely, Dutt's exit doesn't seem to be linked to the sales of the Z10. It was as if he was waiting to get the Z10 launch out of his way before putting in his papers.

But BlackBerry sales over the past year have not really been able to keep up with its numbers since 2009 when it launched the Curve 8520 and wooed a large number of young users to buy their business phones. With under 5 per cent of the market share it is now fourth in the Indian market, below Samsung, Nokia and Micromax. To regain BlackBerry's share Dutt had told us that the company would expand to new towns soon and would be available in 250 locations in India, up from the present 80.

Now, it will be for another person to ensure that BlackBerry 10's initial success converts to long-term growth of the company.

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