Nokia Is Taking Pakistan Seriously (Updated)

While I was attending India-Pakistan Social Media Mela this weekend, I got a message on Facebook from an old acquaintance Umer Dawood. What followed up was an invite to Nokia’s App Summit (16 – 17 July 2012) as a blogger and I happily accepted it. I am always interested in telecom and social media, so it was a golden opportunity for me to enjoy two of my favorite topics in such a short time.

Day 1 (16 July, Monday) was the Conference day and I was invited for that only. Day 2 had Workshops for students and professionals and it was meant for those with technical understanding. When I reached the venue (Marriot Hotel), it didn’t took me long to find the well-placed Registration Desk where my card was ready and a goodie bag was also presented that included a good quality T-Shirt and a diary with a notepad, Conference booklet and a pen. The pictures are attached in the slideshow at the end of this post.

I met Umer after a very long time and also met Osama, one of the organizers, who was my classmate past Spring Semester at SZABIST Karachi where we were in the course Media Planning and Management. I was ushered into the hall which was gorgeously decorated, blue light shadowing the hall and giving it the traditional Nokia feel. The boards that surrounded the hall from three sides had different facts written on them but none of it was irritating at all. The tables were well-placed and the whole setup was very well done.


The event host was Rabia Garib and I wasn’t surprised to see her at all. With my previous experience of Pakistan Blog Awards, I came to know that she has an unorthodox style of presentation and like it a lot. Since CIO Pakistan was event partner, she definitely was the natural choice as the host. P@SHA, Express Tribune and Telenor DJuice were remaining official partners of this event.

Rabia started program by greeting everyone and followed it with recitation from Holy Quran. After that she shed some light on the event and what it entailed, then invited Mr. Arif Shafique (Country Manager Nokia Pakistan) for the Welcome Address. The address was surprisingly short and the floor was quickly handed back to Rabia who transferred it to Rupert Whitehead. Rupert was the developer of Symbian platform back in the 90s and he is currently pioneering Symbian S40 platform. There were some interesting insights from the veteran developer which are as follows:

  • Nokia is engaged with 350 Mobile App Developers in Pakistan and the number is growing
  • Three myths were busted
  1. Mobile Phone users don’t want applications
  2. Budget conscious people don’t use apps
  3. You can’t make cool apps for mobile phones
  • Nokia S40 Symbian platform now has significant share of Nokia’s Smartphone App download
  • About half of India and China’s population will be based in Urban centers by 2020 while over 60% Pakistan’s youth is under the age of 25, presenting huge potential of mobile app consumption in all three Asian countries
  • The Asha series had UI interface called SWIPE and come pre-loaded with a lot of apps and games
  • Nokia is world leader in operator billing, making it easy for customers to buy apps
  • Not everyone has the hardware to test mobile app performance, so Nokia provide a remote hardware for the developers to test their apps and check their functionality
  • 1.8 Billion Data Connected devices in the world and biggest consumers of data are Urban teens, youth and young adults
  • In-App Purchasing and In-App Advertising are two ways to monitize apps in Nokia S40 platform
  • Android apps can ported to Nokia S40 platform

There was much more shared by Rupert but this is what I recall at the moment. The facts were quite interesting, however there were some questions that I couldn’t ask nor any indication was provided about them. The first one was regarding Linux-based Meego platform that was launched by Nokia in its Smartphones that it killed and the possibility that Windows Mobile platform will also be killed in near future. The second question was regarding comparison of Nokia S40 platform with Android and iOS in terms of performance and functionality, particularly of Asha series with Android Smartphones of the same price-category. Both remained unanswered as neither I got the chance to ask them nor it was raised by someone else.


Rupert Whitehead visited the blog and has graciously answered the above two questions.

“The first one was regarding Linux-based Meego platform that was launched by Nokia in its Smartphones that it killed and the possibility that Windows Mobile platform will also be killed in near future.”

Nokia is fully committed to Windows Phone as a platform and I see no risk that this will be killed in the future. Essentially the strategy focusing around Series 40 and Windows Phone is giving Nokia focus in execution.

” The second question was regarding comparison of Nokia S40 platform with Android and iOS in terms of performance and functionality, particularly of Asha series with Android Smartphones of the same price-category.”

Asha phones are largely below the price point of Android and certainly a long way below the price point of iOS. As a result to compare the API richness or performance is not a fair comparison. Asha phones are smartphone like, but they aren’t smartphones.

Instead you should compare Nokia’s strategic smartphone platform, Windows Phone, with them instead. Asha devices are focused on providing the optimal experience for the target price point and hardware costs, so consumers get value, simplicity and so much more. There is still some great API richness, and you can deliver compelling experiences like Guitar Hero, angry birds, story telling apps, or even simple apps like Koran readers. These applications can really enrich the lives of the very large target audience, most of whom can’t afford a smartphone. It’s an audience developers often overlook, and with the investments Nokia have made in making apps more discoverable, now is a good time to start!

Mobile Consumer Insights in the Middle East

Rupert was then succeeded by Imtiaz Noor with whom I had interacted during Social Media Mela. I was surprised to know he was working at Effective Measure and that the company was now working in Pakistan for the past 6 months, gathering consumer insights. Only recently Effective Measure released consumer insights regarding Social Media platforms in Pakistan which were displayed on Propakistani website. Imtiaz also shared some interesting insights regarding Social Media usage in Middle-East. Since the company has been working there for many years and it was only recently established in Pakistan, there weren’t any figures available about Pakistan during the presentation. Some interesting facts mentioned about Middle East were

  • In UAE, a lot of people carry 3 handsets despite having just two operators
  • Nokia is the most used handset brand in Middle-East, followed by Samsung
  • Email, News, Social Network and Weather apps are most used in Arab countries
  • People are purchasing electronics, financial services, event tickets and even travel packages through mobile apps in Middle East
  • UAE, Qatar and Kuwait are leading markets where apps are downloaded the most
  • Except for Qatar, most Middle East people keep their handsets for more than 3 years. The lifecycle of handset is determined by knowing how long people keep it on average and no brand wants a short lifecycle for its handset

These stats have high importance for very obvious reasons. The Smartphone penetration in Pakistan is very limited, rendering it to niche market for the time being. That means the developers will have to develop an app keeping not just local market but also global market in mind if they wish to make a serious career out of it and monitize their app. Knowing how apps are used in different countries is a great way to make informed decisions.

Panel Discussion: Mobile Health

Tea break followed Imtiaz Noor’s talk and the first Panel Discussion was held once everyone returned to their seats. It was on Mobile Health with Dr. Naseer-Ud-Din, Dr. Amir Khan and Usman Javed were panelist while Rabia was the moderator. The crux of the talk was that doctors are trying hard to use technology in order to stay updated regarding patient’s health and guide them/their families regarding treatments, timely consumption of medicine and helping when situation gets bad. Pakistan is going through a tough phase regarding doctors since 70% of all graduating doctors are females, 70% of whom do not practice after getting married. A large majority of the remaining 30% male doctors prefer to go abroad rather than practice in Pakistan, creating a shortage of medical professionals. As per statistics, there are roughly 74 doctors for every 100,000 people in Pakistan.

Pakistan Mobile Ecosystem

After this panel discussion, Jehan Ara was called to stage who talked about Pakistan Mobile Ecosystem. She stressed upon inter-connectivity between visionaries and developers in order to develop apps that are useful. Knowing the consumer is the first step, followed by designing of the app and then development. If the app is free, you can monitize it through ad but you need a good UI to incorporate the ad without putting-off the user. Pakistani developers are technically good but most lack understanding of In-App Revenue system and their apps are usually not user-friendly. She also stressed on the need to involve people with domain knowledge such as business and arts (creative) in the development process in order to make better apps that are user-friendly, economic and able to generate money. She ended her presentation on the fact that Pakistan’s app-ecosystem is very fragmented and effort is required to make it more organized, first step towards which is sharing what we know with each other and help each other learn.

Taking Apps to Mass Market

Jehan Ara was then succeeded by Mr. Usman Javed who is Marketing Director for Telenor Pakistan and he talked about developing apps for mass market. He plainly stated at the beginning of this presentation that in Pakistan there is no mass market for apps. As per statistics, of the total handsets in Pakistan only 3% are Smartphones capable of downloading apps and that makes it niche market. Currently Singapore has the highest Smartphone penetration in the world and it will be a long time when Pakistan will have mass market for apps. Therefor when developing apps, it is important to understand users and for that we have to stop thinking like a techie and more like users themselves; customers don’t buy what they don’t understand, irrespective of how great app it is. In order to get high growth of mobile app, we need 3G and Mobile payment solution, the former is uncertain in Pakistan while latter is being implemented by Telenor in collaboration with Nokia. Telenor is also helping students and independent developers to reach global app platforms through Telenor Apportunity.

Panel Discussion: Mobile Education

Next session was about Mobile Education with the panelists Phyza Jameel, Shaheen Attique and Hussain Ali Talib with Rabia as the moderator. The session was about educating women in far flung areas using just mobile phone. Apps developed in local languages were used with phones that would cost just Rs.4,000, increasing interactivity between student and teacher. This way the students who couldn’t write a word began typing on mobile phones within a few weeks and in six months they could start reading newspapers. The discussion was quite in-depth, explaining the problems faced when convincing girls’ families that mobile phone was for education purpose only (and not to talk to strangers late night) to affording the whole program as well as credit for the phones in order to maintain contact with the student. There were a great many details discussed but unfortunately I was being constantly bugged by people beside me. I was sitting around table that was at the very end and constant chattering by my neighbors made it really difficult to understand much of the conversation.

Gaming Apps & Monetization

The panel discussion was followed by presentation from Zeeshan Aftab regarding monitizing gaming apps. He shared some great insights as well such as majority people play game to kill time and the mobile gaming industry is worth $2.7 Billion. The developers can earn revenue from consumers, businesses and ad networks through their apps, although the history shows that the best revenue model is based on Subscription based revenue. The customer base is smaller but revenues are higher and more consistent compared to all other revenue models, that is why World of Warcraft has had considerable success in revenue generation and similar trend can be replicated on mobile gaming apps. Virtual Currency is also a good way to for earning through games and it is heavily used for gaming apps available on Facebook.

This presentation was followed by much awaited lunch-break and that was the end of my participation in the conference. I had to leave for my university in order to prepare for my Analysis of Financial Statements exam in the evening, forcing me to leave out a very interesting session on Integrating Mobile into Broader Advertising Campaign.


The event was very well organized and the sessions were highly informative. This shows that Nokia has decided to take Pakistan seriously and combining it with last month’s launch of Pakistan-specific Nokia website, there is no doubt Nokia is trying to consolidate its hold on markets it currently dominates. It has tried and tried hard to get back into North American and European markets but met with very limited success, while Asian markets are still more trusting which gives the company a platform to rely and fallback on. This was a very good attempt and I seriously hope Nokia continues to do good work in this regard.

Interesting Facts by Nokia

These facts were written on the boards surrounding the hall and give an insight to Nokia’s performance, reminding users that it once was global leader

  • Nokia Store is available in 190+ countries, of which 90% is in local languages
  • Nokia Store has over 100,000 content items available for S40 devices, and nearly 25,000 content items targeting Nokia Asha devices specifically, which take advantage of Asha’s more advanced features
  • Nokia Store has, to date, driven more than 5 Billion cumulative downloads (S40 devices accounted for 13% of the first Billion and 42% of the last Billion)
  • 80% of Nokia Store traffic converts to download
  • Nokia Store offers more than 120,000 apps and currently drives more than 15 million download request per day
  • Nokia Store offers operator billing supported by 145 operators, across 52 markets in the world

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