In his first interview, new Nokia UK and Ireland general manager Conor Pierce tells Michael Garwood why the manufacturer can and will again reign supreme
So far, 2011 has not been a good year for Nokia. A timeline of damning headlines, ranging from profit warnings, cuts to staff and a decline in its global market share have put serious question marks on its future.
In the UK, one of its most important markets and one it had dominated for years, it has struggled. With the rise in smartphones and perhaps more notably the consumer interest and adoption of operating systems, Nokia has fallen behind its rivals for the first time.
Based on marketing analysis shown to Mobile News, Nokia is currently sixth for smartphone share in the UK, with just over five per cent and behind BlackBerry, Apple, HTC, Samsung and Sony Ericsson.
Samsung, a manufacturer that only entered the market 10 years ago, is now number one for total market share in the UK, with 25 per cent compared to Nokia’s 16 per cent. Globally, Nokia remains number one, but in May its share had slipped 5.5 per cent year-on-year to 25 per cent – its lowest since 1997.
The task for the new UK and Ireland general manager Conor Pierce, who joined in April after leaving the same role in Turkey – a place he calls his “second home” – is a challenging one. It’s perhaps the most challenging of his eight-year career with the Finnish manufacturer, he suggests.
But the excitement in his voice can’t be disguised. And his air of confidence, without a hint of arrogance, shows he has the belief in himself and his management style to turn things around for what remains the world’s biggest manufacturer.
He explains how he has gained valuable experience working in close to 30 markets, including 22 across the Middle East and North Africa with Nokia, claiming each one to be “very different”.
His first four months in the job have been spent almost exclusively meeting his customers, be it dealers, its two distributors Data Select and 20:20 Mobile, or end-users, in a bid to gain a better understanding of the UK market.
Pierce makes it clear he likes to do things his way, and has no interest in the way his predecessors, which since 2008 have included Simon Ainslie, Mark Loughran and Sami Lehtinen, ran the UK business.
Instead, he is learning about the market through meeting customers and partners, and educating them on the future plans of the manufacturer as it enters arguably the most critical period of its history.
“I am extremely aware of the position of Nokia in the UK. I understand the market and where we add value. I understand where we need to challenge and what we need to do to get through this transition period,” he says.
“I like to dive in deep and understand everything about the market. The customer relationships, the consumers, the distribution landscape, the local team, everything.
“I always end up in challenging situations and challenging markets. But I enjoy that. And Nokia is definitely in a challenger mode.
“The market as a whole is going through its own transition in the UK. It’s one of the most competitive markets I have ever worked in. But when I see change, I see opportunity.”
That opportunity is largely centred around Nokia’s strategic agreement with Microsoft, signed in April, for use of the Windows Phones operating system on its handsets.
The first Windows Phone handset is expected to be shipped during Q4. Although Pierce declined to confirm or deny this, he insisted part of the new approach by Nokia was to respond to a market changing faster than in previous years – echoing the words of Nokia CEO Stephen Elop in January.
Pierce has no doubts the addition of Windows Mobile to its range will help Nokia regain a foothold in the smartphone market and with it, inject new life into its ailing UK and global market share.
Such is his enthusiasm, he claims to have never been more excited and more confident about a product launch, and indeed the future of the company in his 12-year career in the mobile business.
He says his views are measured purely on the reactions from others, namely its distribution partners and consumer groups, which have been able to view and test the devices already.
“I have been in this business for more than a decade, working in many different roles and in many different markets, and I have never felt as confident and as excited about what lies ahead as I am now. And I mean that genuinely,” says Pierce. “I always take an unbiased view with new products, but seeing the customers’ reaction is what fills me with confidence.
“One big thing Nokia has learned, and is definitely doing this year, is execution. We are actually making things happen. The announcement was made in February, and within a relatively short space of time, we will actually be delivering our first device. That’s not been the case in the past.
“The whole ethos in Nokia is accountability, speed of execution and really taking ownership of what makes sense to local markets. It’s now a very different and a very motivated place at Nokia.”
Full article in Mobile News issue 496 (August 29, 2011).
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