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Nokia: News You Can Use

Nokia connects through an SMS-based information service
twitter-logo Sunny Sen        Print Edition: July 7, 2013

Six years ago, Finnish mobile phone maker Nokia had a pretty broad brief for Jawahar Kanjilal: he had to launch some services targeted at emerging markets. Kanjilal did some research and zeroed in on an SMSbased information service called Nokia Life Tools (NLT), which would provide agricultural information, such as weather reports and crop prices, and educational services such as English language courses.

He started small with a pilot project in Maharashtra: Nokia teamed up with the Maharashtra State Agricultural Marketing Board to provide commodity prices from nearly 300 mandis to thousands of state farmers. "Back then mobile services were entertainmentoriented, and life-improvement services were missing in 2008," says Kanjilal, now Vice President and Global Head of Nokia Life, Mobile Phone Services at Nokia.

The pilot was a big success. Today, Nokia Life has extended beyond agriculture to also provide information on health and education. It has more than 100 million users, half in India and the rest in four emerging markets - China, Indonesia, Nigeria and Kenya. It has joined hands with 20 mobile operators, has more than 100 content partners and its services are available in 20 languages across these countries. Kanjilal says he was clear about one thing: the company had to launch the pilot project for emerging markets in a country with geographic diversity and India was the obvious option. "If we cracked it here (India), it would be doable (everywhere else)," he says.

So, how does the service work? NLT subscribers pay a monthly subscription, choose a language and the company delivers information to their mobile phones. The biggest challenge is collecting information. The company needs suitable partners such as universities, NGOs and government bodies to gather highly localised information. For information on its education projects which include English learning programmes, Nokia has tied up with mobile learning company Enable Mobile Technologies (EnableM), which, in turn, has partnered with leading organisations such as Pearson Education.

The education project provides highly localised content by using area pin codes as a differentiator. "Kanjilal helps us with market inputs, and also aggregating a set of partners who are experts in their own space," says Amit Zaveri, CEO and Founder of EnableM.

Once agriculture and education were in place, Nokia turned to health care. Kanjilal realised many people in rural India do not visit a doctor until they are extremely sick. He then began providing health-related information on everything from general health topics to specifics such as maternal and child care. Now that he has set up NLT, the company's next step is to launch in many more countries. "There is a lot of headroom here," he says.

The success in India pushed Nokia Life to spread to other emerging markets. Today, almost half of its subscriber base is outside India, with 30 million users in China and 10 million users each in Nigeria and Indonesia. It has tied up with UNESCO in Nigeria to launch a service to help educate primary school teachers. In Jakarta, about 8,000 women use an NLT service called Usaha Wanita which helps women run small businesses. "A lot of wealth in these countries is in rural and underdeveloped cities," says Sanchit Vir Gogia, Chief Analyst and CEO of Greyhound Research, an IT research and advisory firm.

The project's global footprint doesn't stop here. Nokia and telecommunications services company Bharti Airtel have plans to go global with their partnership: Nokia announced in March it would take services such as Nokia Life across Africa. "We see a huge need of services like Nokia Life in Africa," says N. Rajaram, Chief Marketing Officer of Bharti Airtel. "It has been a good partnership in India and now we have taken that to Africa."
Spreading Its Wings
Nokia Life has extended beyond agriculture to also provide information on health and education. It has more than 100 million users, half in India and the rest in four emerging markets - China, Indonesia, Nigeria and Kenya. It has joined hands with 20 mobile operators, has 100 content partners and its services are available in 20 languages across these countries. Jawahar Kanjilal, Vice President, Nokia Life, says he was clear about one thing: the company had to launch the pilot project for emerging markets in a country with geographic diversity and India was the obvious option.


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