KARACHI, Pakistan – Following our coverage last week of Nokia’s involvement in the first Pakistan Blog Awards, we took the opportunity of putting Adeel Hashmi, Communications Manager – Near East, on the spot to learn more about the current state of mobile and social media in the country. Join us after the break to find out about what’s happening in the not-so-far East.
NC: You described the blog awards as quite ‘daring’. Why is that?
AH: I remember the first time the organising team approached me about the blogger awards. It was a unique forum to be a part of and the best thing was the timing. We were gearing up for an aggressive initiative in the social media space and here it was. We agreed on the terms and went in as the presentation partner. The awards team was pleasantly surprised that we agreed. They had small partners but Nokia taking the lead on this was a big step in a market like Pakistan.
This was the first time such an activity has been organised in Pakistan. Because of the current financial instability in the country, a lot of global and local brands are avoiding any forum where they will be in direct contact with opinion makers. Nonetheless, being the market leader, we at Nokia ensured that the team at the Pakistan Bloggers’ Award was fully supported. We helped them in judging the major categories and also attended as a keynote speaker to talk about Nokia’s ideas regarding social media trends in the country.
With an ‘online all-the-time audience’ (almost 90% of the guests were tweeting or live-blogging) of almost 300 bloggers, Nokia was seen in the forefront of understanding the needs of digital media movers and shakers.
NC: You mentioned that Nokia has partnered with Pakistani bloggers for some time. In what way? Why? And how has it helped?
AH: Back in August 2008, we did an exercise to analyse the local media scene and came across a grey area – “social media” – which was growing exponentially in the local market.
Gradually, we started interacting with local tech-savvy bloggers who had an interest in writing about mobile technology. We also realised that bloggers rarely have any official sources from whom to get local stories and insights. We have been facilitating that ever since, by providing them first-hand relevant information that helped them write fresh, unbiased editorial. We also invite them to our local events and announcements and use them in the seeding program as well.
Our first blogger-exclusive meet-up was in 2009 when we did the first sneak previews of the Nokia N97. It was very well received and since them we have been managing blogger meetups to give them exclusive content about Nokia and how we sees the world today and tomorrow.
NC: Give us an overall picture of mobile in Pakistan.
AH: Mobile penetration is at 58.7 per cent (i.e. the number of subscribers / total population) – that’s 96.2 million mobile subscribers. Of those, the proportion of people using a single SIM is 60 per cent. We expect subscriptions to grow between seven and eight per cent a year for the next five years, with the vast majority of new subscribers coming from rural areas.
That’s a high proportion, but 89 per cent of the market is for devices that cost less than $100US. The most popular Nokia models are the 1202, 1208, 1661, 1616, 5030, 2700, 5130 and 6303.
Among the 11 per cent that represents the high-end, popular devices are the E63, E71 and E90. The touch-sensitive 5230 & 5233 models are also gaining popularity rapidly.
NC: You say that mobile technology can “empower the masses to use them for the betterment of their lives as well as society”. Can you give any particular examples of how mobiles (and Nokia) are helping?
AH: Based on the economic situation of our country, where most of the market is going to be looking at entry-level devices, we were always keen to communicate about the value that a mobile device brings to individual lives. We have offered a range of devices at every price point here in Pakistan, which has helped us understand what people want to do with their phones. We have seen an immense change over the period of our existence in Pakistan. The masses have been adopting this mobile technology for the betterment of their living standards and it has come to be a necessity for them.
Nowadays, in all the major metropolitan cities like Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore, we see that even people from the lowest economic class, like housekeepers, gatekeepers, drivers, janitors, hawkers, plumbers, and electricians are now accessible 24/7 via mobile. They are also aware that this technology has helped them to improve their lives by getting more business. Nokia has been playing a critical role in bringing total cost of ownership down for consumers. And if I have to quote one example to show how we have changed the lives of people, it is the fact that – thanks to very low data charges – the average Pakistani youth has his or her first experience of the Internet on a mobile device.
image credit: altamash