In the end, it was not really about the phones. Yes, there were three of them that were launched. Yes, there were senior executives on stage talking about them. Yes, there was talk of tie-ups and sales and service. But this tech event was not really about the products. No, it was about the return of a brand that had been pretty much synonymous with phones in the country about a decade ago. And then seemingly ran out of steam.
We are talking of course about Nokia, which officially made its comeback to India shores and stores under the HMD Global banner on June 13. The venue for the launch was Qla, a restaurant that’s a stone’s throw away from the iconic Qutab Minar, one of India’s most famous historical monuments. And nostalgia was in the air right from the time when the invite for the event arrived with the iconic Nokia guitar ringtone built into it (one of those cards that play a tune when you open it).
The feeling was strengthened when one entered the hall for the presentation (it did not get too delayed, praise be) and saw a number of familiar faces – after all, a number of the old Nokia team are now part of HMD Global. Former Rovio CEO Pekka Rantala, he of the red shoes on stage, is a prime example. The current Chief Marketing Officer of HMD Global gently reminded me that he was the man behind the iconic Nokia N series. There were others too, so much so that the presentation that followed was almost like a page from the past, with Ajey Mehta, Vice President, India; Pranav Shroff, Director, Global Portfolio Strategy & Planning, and Rantala himself took the stage in turns. And before they took the stage, a live band in the corner of the venue played that ringtone again.
This was supposed to be an event that saw three phones being launched. But the phones themselves did not take too much of the time onstage. Yes, Pranav Shroff did give them their due, being energetic as ever. “We will bring you the purest Android,” he said assertively. “Your (Nokia) phone will always be pure, secure and up to date.” But there was no dwelling over design, specs, and camera as is the case in most launches these days. Nay, the tone here was brisk and professional (as were the slides, which stuck to the Apple format of not too many words and very large fonts), and there was not much drama even when it came to the price announcement – the price was shown with the specs of the models on a slide. No countdowns, no tension.
But that does not mean the event was bereft of any sentiment. Nay, there was sentiment aplenty, but it was all reserved for the brand rather than its offspring. We were reminded time and again about what Nokia had stood for, its core values, its relationship with India and how it believed in connecting people. Most of this was handled by Pekka Rentala, who said that the interest around Nokia’s return in India was unlike anything he had seen and comfortably even beat the hype around Angry Birds when he was at Rovio.
It was all very well organized, with barely a false note, except perhaps when the Nokia ringtone in human voice played just as Jyotsna Makkar, HMD’s head of marketing in India was about to speak onstage. And no, it did not drag on as some events do. The arrangements were spot on, and although there was no formal question and answer session on stage, the HMD Nokia spokespersons were available for interviews and comment – something they went through with commendable patience.
Yes, we are sure that the three gentlemen sulking at the end of the day were the Nokia 3,5 and 6, who would have expected a bit more attention. But this was not really about them. They were the add-ons to what was really a return of an old favorite. And the way in which the event was organized made one wonder if it had ever gone away.
You see, it was not spectacular. It was not bombastic and loaded with hyperbole.
Nay, it was just smooth and efficient.
It was very… Nokia.