BANGALORE (AFP) – Finnish mobile-phone maker Nokia on Wednesday opened a global design studio in India to stay ahead of rivals such as Motorola in the world’s fastest-growing wireless market.
The studio will be located in Bangalore, known as India’s Silicon Valley, and will be the first of a series of “satellite” design centres being established by Nokia, which plans to open the next in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The world’s second-most populous nation is adding six million mobile-phone users every month, and the location of the studio testifies to the impact that India is having on the development of handsets, Nokia officials said.
“Design is not just about the look and feel of the handset but equally important is what it can do for people and how it fits into their lives,” said Hannu Nieminen, head of innovations at Nokia Design.
“Designers must be exposed to how people live and work in different places around the world,” Nieminen told a news conference here.
India’s mobile revolution is mainly confined to cities, but the real prize for phone companies is the vast rural market where nearly 70 percent of the population lives, analysts say.
Telephone penetration is around 25 per 100 people in urban areas, and as low as 1.6 per 100 in rural areas, leaving vast room for growth.
Nokia designers will work with students at the Bangalore-based Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology to conceive new handsets for India and global markets in the Internet era.
The studio will explore design trends and themes including research into colour and material trends in India, mobile use of the Internet and its implications for design, including new features and uses for mobiles.
“The first experience of the Internet for many future users will be on the mobile phone,” said Nieminen. “India will play a crucial role in designing handsets for them.”
The Indian studio involves a “considerable investment,” said Bangalore-based Jan Blom, senior designer manager at Nokia Design.
“We really want to optimise the way our product is geared to Indian needs,” said Blom, adding the Bangalore centre would help Nokia tailor products for the local market.
India, along with China and the United States, is among the three biggest markets for Nokia.
The first mobile-phone call made in India in 1995 was on a Nokia phone on a Nokia network. The Finnish company introduced the first Hindi-language mobile menu in 2000, following it up with the first camera phone in 2002, and Hindi short messaging system in 2004.
“Nokia’s decision to open its first design satellite studio in India underscores our commitment to the market and strengthens our presence in the country — distribution and sales, research, manufacturing and now design,” said D. Shivakumar, vice-president and general manager of Nokia India.
Nokia, with a 6,000-strong workforce in India, is competing with global handset makers including Motorola of the US and Ericsson of Sweden in an expanding market that has 157 million cellular subscribers.
Ericsson in July won a 2.0-billion-dollar order from Bharti Airtel, India’s biggest mobile-phone services provider, to expand its network into rural areas.
It came on the heels of a 900-million-dollar memorandum of understanding that Finnish-German joint venture Nokia Siemens struck earlier in July with Bharti to expand its network.