Ashok Kumar Gupta sounds upbeat about the launch of Evolve, BlackBerry’s first smartphone that has been conceptualised, designed and manufactured in India. What makes him more excited, though, are the features that the desi avatar flaunts: Dual sim, dual camera, wireless charging, Dolby Atmos audio.
“It [dual sim] might sound trivial, but is extremely important from the Indian consumer’s perspective,” says Gupta, chairman of Optiemus Infracom, BlackBerry licensee for the Indian subcontinent. With Make in India, he reckons, consumers will get a compelling price point for BlackBerry—`24,990. Evolve is available exclusively on Amazon since October 10. “It offers you the most secure Android smartphone experience,” beams Gupta, who is optimistic about its success.
Gupta’s excitement notwithstanding, is it too little too late for a brand that once ruled the roost across the world with its iconic product, aggressive marketing and memorable advertising? Can Evolve help Gupta revive the brand that has almost faded from consumer consciousness, as the likes of Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo and Honor dominate the smartphone market?
The task, reckon handset analysts, seems daunting, if not impossible. Blackberry still resonates strongly with a significant section of users, but they have now moved on to other smartphones. Though Evolve looks promising, and might help Blackberry get some volumes in India, the main threat will be from Xiaomi’s Poco F1, thinks Shobhit Srivastava, research analyst at Counterpoint. “Though there is a precedent in the successful revival of Nokia, it will be an uphill task to get BlackBerry back to its glory days,” he says.
Marketing experts too believe the brand is fighting against odds. “Once you move out of the consumer’s consciousness, you stand very little chance of making a come-back,” says Ashita Aggarwal, marketing professor at SP Jain Institute of Management and Research. “It’s a blast from the past,” she says. “Desi boys don’t stand a chance against Chinese men.”
(This story appears in the 26 October, 2018 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)