RIM seeks consumers in Asia's emerging markets

BlackBerry demand in Asia is coming from consumers, says executive at Research In Motion, which is looking to extend its image beyond traditional enterprise realm.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

ORLANDO, FLORIDA--BlackBerry demand in Asia's emerging markets is driven by consumers and its maker, Research In Motion (RIM), is keen to expand its growth in this segment, according to the company's Asia-Pacific director, Gregory Wade.

Demand from consumers in the region is markedly different from RIM's traditional image in Western and more developed Asian markets, where the BlackBerry has been seen for years as a corporate device handed out to office workers by their employers, said Wade in an interview with ZDNet Asia here at the company's WES 2010 conference.

This has been the result of a combination of several factors. On the distribution end, operators in the Asia-Pacific region have been marketing BlackBerrys to consumers, while RIM has been active in embracing the pre-paid demographic, he said.

RIM needs to work closely with carriers in order to offer pre-paid accounts to users because operators need to be able to find a sustainable business model for typically lower ARPU (average revenue per user) pre-paid accounts on the BlackBerry platform, he explained.

Wade pointed to the example of Indonesia, which is often highlighted as a success story for BlackBerry. The company launched its Indonesian BlackBerry pre-paid service in August 2008, a move he said was instrumental in the company's growth in the country. An estimated 97 percent of Indonesia's market are pre-paid users, he added.

According to reports, BlackBerry sales in Indonesia quadrupled last year over 2008 but has remained a small proportion of the overall handset market currently dominated by Nokia, which has a 80 percent share.

Wade added that RIM's entrance in Asia came at a point where consumer demand in the mobile space and adoption of smartphones were beginning to ramp up. As a result, consumers--not enterprises, as was the case in more mature markets--helped drive demand for BlackBerrys in the Asia-Pacific region, he said, noting that mature economies have since transitioned from the "company BlackBerry" to consumer-driven demand for the device.

Consumer demand has also, in particular, been driven by the growth of social networking in developing markets, he said.

"Yes, we are proud of our image in enterprise messaging but we are also carving out a consumer face," Wade said, adding that there is higher usage of social messaging functions in many of Asia's markets compared with e-mail.

He also noted that RIM's strategy is not based on gadget lust, unlike some of its competitors in the smartphone arena. "Look and feel [are] very important. Ergonomics is a key design feature [for BlackBerrys].

"But engaging the user is so much more than glitz," he said, reiterating the company's focus on packing apps with core functionality--what it has termed "super apps".

Victoria Ho of ZDNet Asia reported from the WES 2010 show in Orlando, Florida.

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