The world’s largest handset maker Nokia has elevated D Shivakumar, currently its country head for India, to lead a roster of around 90 countries spread across Africa and the Middle East, besides India, in what creates one of the biggest blocks of emerging markets under a single unit for the company.
The move is part of a global organisational restructuring wherein the Finnish giant has consolidated its sales operations by clubbing together certain markets to form four regions – Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific (including China) and IMEA (India, Middle East and Africa). Shivakumar, who will be heading the IMEA unit, will relocate to Dubai early next year to begin his new role. He will be replaced by a new India chief who will report to him.
Five years ago, Shivakumar took over as the country head from Sanjeev Sharma who was also offered an overseas assignment in the South-East Asia but opted out of it. When Shivakumar took over, the company was primarily focused on sales operations in India but soon after, it set up a manufacturing unit near Chennai.
Although the company has lost its market share from near-monopoly strength, it remains the single largest handset brand in the country.
In 2010, India was the second biggest market for Nokia in terms of sales, mopping up revenue of €2.9 billion. Although it had managed to increase its sales from that of 2009, revenue growth was sluggish here, compared to China, Russia and even Germany.
While the Middle East and Africa as a region accounted for 13 per cent of the global net sales of Nokia in 2010, India accounted for another 6.8 per cent. So henceforth, Shivakumar will be responsible for around one-fifth of the global revenues of Nokia.
Shivakumar, who headed the consumer electronics business of another European giant Philips in India for three years before joining Nokia, has had a background in selling consumer products. Prior to Philips, he had spent several years with FMCG major Hindustan Levers (now Hindustan Unilever) in various roles, including sales, marketing and business head. He was the head of hair care business before he left the company.
The FMCG experience would also come in handy when he tries to break into the emerging markets of the African continent and the rest of the Middle East – large swaths of which would resemble the rural or the semi-urban market in India.
Particularly important would be his learning from ceding ground to the new clutch of local players, such as Micromax and Karbonn, in India who have innovated in terms of product line-ups and spread distribution reach to take on the global biggies, even as some large handset makers like LG have struggled in the country.