Q10 pricing brings BlackBerry's two-pronged strategy for India in focus

Nandagopal Rajan        Last Updated: June 11, 2013  | 15:37 IST

Nandagopal Rajan
Thousands of BlackBerry loyalists were waiting for an affordable device running the new operating system, but the Q10, launched on June 6 and costing Rs 44,990, ultimately ended up being priced above the flagship Z10 (launched in February for Rs 43,490).
To justify the price, BlackBerry has been categorical in stating that the Q10 is a "premium phone". So, those with limited budgets, hoping to switch to the new BB10 operating systems will have to wait till the Q5 comes along.
Sunil Lalvani, Managing Director for India at BlackBerry, told Business Today that the earlier BB7 and BB10 platforms would coexist, but would cater to entirely different segments.

"The BB7 will stand apart for its affordability and availability across India. We are positioning these phones as the best option for first time smartphone users," he said on the sidelines of the Q10 launch in New Delhi.

Towards this end the company seems to be banking heavily on its EMI schemes and cheaper data plans.

Lalvani said the EMIs could be as low as Rs 798 per month, while the BlackBerry data plans now start at Rs 129 per month. This, he said, was aimed at the Tier 2 and 3 cities.
In contrast, BlackBerry sees the BB10 platform and its devices will play for the next decade. So the Z10 and Q10 are ideal for those upgrading from top-end BlackBerry Bold devices.

"These are people who love the QWERTY keypad but want to evolve to the new operating system," he said.

The company promises a range of devices targeting all price points starting with "younger" Q5 slated to launch in a couple of months. But this would mean that those mid-range users planning to shift to, or stick to, a BlackBerry device will have to make do with a BB7 device or put off the purchase for a few months.
"It seems the Q5 seems will be a more affordable option, but it remains to be seen if people will wait for a cheaper option in a market as dynamic as this. Once again, loyalists might graduate from a BB7 to a BB10, but unless we see conversions from other platforms the company will not be able to expand its base in India," says Manasi Yadav, Senior Market Analyst for Mobile Phones and Tablets, at research firm IDC.

She thinks the Q10 has not been priced right for the Indian market. "We were expecting it to be sub-Rs 30,000. We don't see people from other platforms moving toward the BB10 as many choices are available in this price with larger screens," she adds.

She notes, however, that the Q10 makes sense for people who need a touch and type experience.

According to IDC, while 16.29 million smartphones were shipped in India in 2012, Blackberry had a share of just 6 per cent, down from the 13 per cent share in 2011. This is why getting new users to pick up a BlackBerry is crucial for the company.
However, the Canadian firm seems prepared for the long haul.

Lalvani stated at the launch that the company had over $2.5 billion in cash, and zero debt. That was his way of saying the company was in no way desperate.

One thing that is still going in its favour, despite the inroads made by Apple, is its stranglehold on enterprise. "Enterprise seems to be a safe spot for the company at the moment as there is traction for the BB Enterprise Server 10 with Android still not considered a secure option for corporate users," says Yadav.
But till cheaper BB10 devices come along with the relevant apps start making these smartphones more relevant, BlackBerry will have to just pray that its two-pronged strategy for India pays off.

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