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Corporate Mar 9, 2013

BlackBerry's India Managing Director Sunil Dutt resigns

By Ivor Soans

Blackberry India Managing Director Sunil Dutt, who recently presided over the India launch of the BlackBerry Z10, has put in his papers, a little over a year after he joined the company in December 2011.

What makes the news of Dutt's exit surprising is the fact that Thorsten Heins, CEO of BlackBerry has gone on record stating that stocks of the Z10 sold out within two days in India which was surprising for the company despite their already optimistic projections.

Managing Director for BlackBerry India, Sunil Dutt speaks at the country launch of the BlackBerry Z10 in Mumbai. AFP

Managing Director for BlackBerry India, Sunil Dutt speaks at the country launch of the BlackBerry Z10 in Mumbai. AFP

"I was surprised when we launched in India how well the Z10, which is a high-end device, sold," said Heins. "We shipped into the channel product that we thought would have been good for at least five days and I got an emergency call from our manager in India, saying that they were sold out in two days."

In a statement in response to our query, a BlackBerry India spokesperson confirmed the news. "I can confirm Sunil Dutt has left his position as Managing Director, BlackBerry India with immediate effect. We wish Sunil well for the future. In the interim, Rick Costanzo, Executive Vice President for Global Sales, will take over the leadership of the talented management team in India as we start the search for a new Sales lead as soon as possible. India is an extremely important market for BlackBerry and our aim is to continue to build on our recent momentum with the launch of BlackBerry 10," he emphasised.

To be sure, BlackBerry's marketshare in India has been seeing a steady fall, despite strong brand value. Cheap Android smartphones, some selling for less than Rs 5000, offer far more features and especially a rich ecosystem of applications that BlackBerry's USPs like BBM and e-mail haven't been able to keep up with.

According to an article in Hindu Businessline, that quoted a Voice & Data survey, RIM's revenues dropped 25 percent to Rs 1,460 crore from Rs 1,950 crore between 2011-12 as compared to 2011.

RIM had a market share of 4.7 percent and was at the fourth spot behind Nokia, Samsung and Micromax. Cybermedia Research had also reported in the last quarter of 2012 that while Apple shipped 280,000 devices in India, BlackBerry only shipped 210,000 units.

BlackBerry Z10 was expected to change things and though it has been priced prohibitively in India at Rs 43450, it has seen unexpectedly good demand despite the steep price tag, and seems to be a good foundation for the upcoming Q10 - Qwerty keyboard BlackBerry 10 smartphone, as also four other smartphones with yet unknown features and price points that are expected later this year.

These phones, by all accounts, should be in the mid-to low-end of the smartphone segment, thus giving BlackBerry a chance to replicate its erstwhile success in India - with high-end smartphones like the Bold series creating brand aura while cheap, low-end smartphones like Curve 8520 bringing in mass sales.

by Ivor Soans

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