Nokia Launches Ovi Music in India: First Take

Nokia today announced the launch of the Indian implementation of Comes With Music.  The fact it is called Ovi Music indicates the degree to which this is a highly bespoke implementation of Nokia’s unlimited music offering, specifically tailored for the local market.  Nokia understand the dynamics of emerging markets more than any other global digital music player and they’re embarking on a first or early mover strategy across key emerging markets such as India, Russia and Mexico.  This is Nokia’s 30th unlimited music market.

Nokia have done a lot to address local market dynamics, such as a 90% local language, 4 million track catalogue, pinless activation directly on mobile devices without a PC (due to low PC penetration) and reducing the Ovi client from 60MB to 3MB to address connectivity issues.  The service will also have a new low end music phone (the X2) to drive its launch.

Even with those features though, the majority of the Indian market will not be addressable.  Most mobile phone users don’t have any download capability (either PC or mobile) and rely upon filling up their phones with illegal content from dodgy stalls set up outside mobile phone shops.  (Nokia’s focus on ‘clean meta data’ for Ovi Music in India is an intended differentiation point from these resellers). 

Of course Nokia fully understand these dynamics and they’ve chosen to launch a service with a remit of addressing a smaller, higher spending, more tech savvy segment, leaving their AM radio enabled phones as a means of delivering a music experience to rural areas etc.

Even with just addressing this smaller segment though, the market opportunity is huge.  Whilst many of the global players duke it out over increasingly saturated US and EU markets, Nokia is building its emerging market empire.  It’s a smart move but not one without risks.  Indeed one of Nokia’s biggest risks is that they put all of the work into priming these emerging markets for digital music, only for Apple or someone else to come in with the classic early-follower strategy leaving Nokia looking like the digital music provider for early adopters not mass market.  In short, Nokia can’t afford to stay still and take breath.