Nokia is seen as a pioneering company in mobile phone technology, but I have come to the distressing conclusion that European values are nonexistent in its India operations, although this is one of the biggest markets for phone companies.
To put it simply, Nokia has “Finlandized” its own operations in India.
It is bad enough that mobile phones in general are so flimsy, and have a half life of about 10 months for many people. The fashions and constantly upgraded features also prevent any phone from having a long life.
But Nokia’s phones sold in India (including those made in China and not just its domestic unit) have poor material and build quality. As every year passes, this lack of quality seems to get pronounced. I used a Hungary-made Nokia 6101for a couple of years, but the design was so deeply flawed that its heavy flipping half soon wore out at the hinge. Of course, Nokia’s dealers and its sprinkling of “Nokia Care” centres do not have any spares for this model. The only advice that they were able to give was to throw the phone away and go for a new one, never mind that it was in working condition, and companies like Nokia rip off precious Coltan from the forests of the Congo, home of the endangered mountain gorillas, to make their money.
If this insult were not enough, my next phone, a Nokia 3500c, started malfunctioning with its company-supplied headset within just four months. I visited the dealer, who again directed me to a “Nokia Care” centre on Eldams Road, Alwarpet. The staff at this centre have a take it or leave it attitude. For one thing, they say “it will take a day” to identify the problem. Then, if they have the tools and the spares for the job, they say, they can fix it in a couple of days, if not, it has to go somewhere else, where it might take longer. The whole process starts with your waiting in the office as if you had a tooth problem, and the dentist was very busy. Then there is the opening of a job card and so forth. The staff are not bothered that you will be without a phone for anything between 3 and 7 days. (Contrast this with private repairers, who advertise repairs in 15 minutes!)
I also wonder how a big company such as Nokia can have a handful of “Care” centres in a major metropolis when it sells a couple of million phones each month. Either it holds Indian consumers in serious contempt, or believes that people must cough up cash for a mobile phone every few months.
That is the impression I got from the experience with the Nokia 6101. When the headset of that instrument got faulty, I was advised to throw it away. And a spare, “original” headset costs about a sixth of the price of the phone.
A third party headset costs a lot less.Incidentally, Nokia’s greed apparently prevents it from standardising the headset sockets and jacks. Unlike in the world of consumer electronics, where the headphone jack, the microphone jack, and sockets are standardised, the mobile phone companies have made a fool of the consumer.
All this is a far removed from the slick advertisements that Nokia India bombards you with on television. You will of course appreciate that today’s mobile phones don’t come cheap. My 3500c cost me almost Rs. 6,000 at The Mobile Store, Ispahani Centre, but its sealed package contained a headset where the switch was scratched. How could that be, unless someone at Nokia India is tampering with accessories?
There is no doubt that Nokia has some very intuitive software on its phones, with the exception of its clunky and slow PC suite to connect your phone to your computer. But its hardware is of uneven quality, flimsy, and expensive.
Along with the mobile phone operators, the hardware manufacturers also seem to be taking the Indian consumer for a ride. Does Nokia India have a response to give me?
Update: My Nokia 3500c has started malfunctioning, in about 10 months. This Chinese-made plasticky phone costs quite a packet in India, and a firmware update does not really solve its problems.
The most frustrating thing is “Camera on Standby,” which happens when your memory card has reached a certain number of photos and or videos. What a crummy piece of electronics, because my phone is running the latest version of the software. Even when there is about 60 Mb of space left on the card, apparently the file allocation functions in the camera go kaput.
Nokia forums in Europe or elsewhere have only junk to offer. Run a google search and the results thrown up are all forum discussions, which offer no insight. Notice that the problem is reported primarily by Indian users. Looks like Nokia has been taking Indian customers for a ride with some software glitch that it is unwilling to talk about.
This does not mean Sony Ericsson is an angel. They were palming off, until recently, the W580i, an overpriced walkman phone, to Indian customers with a faulty keypad. In under four months of average use, the keypad starts cracking up uniformly in the centre. Take it to the Sony service centre and what answer do you get? The keypad has no warranty!
If Indians are such losers, why blame the manufacturers ? We have about 300 million phone users, and we can hire the best lawyers for a subscription of one rupee each. That translates into the annual turnover of some leading law firms. Imagine humbling Nokia and Sony Ericsson into selling good phones in India, on pain of paying heavy compensation for downtime and consumer damages.
But who can help losers?