BlackBerry has been on a crazy roller-coaster ride for the last 18 months. Many analysts claimed the company would be dead or sold, while some were supportive throughout. Today we take a closer look at teens in India, which is a superior sector of BlackBerry business – where it was once ruling the market. Lets jump right into it and see what changed people’s minds to switch to Android or iOS while BB has it all, and a lot more, to offer.

2007-2012 saw the popularity of BlackBerry in India at its peak. 8 out of 10 people were BlackBerry users, and every single one of them had the same reasons for using BlackBerrys – they were head over heels in love with the keyboard, BBM was the god of all messengers, the email experience was so wonderfully convenient they found themselves sending emails to practically everyone, and the battery lasted a lifetime.

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Over time, however, this fanaticism saw a decline thanks to certain issues these BlackBerry lovers were being faced with on their Berrys, the limited number of applications being the most significant one. Die-hard Berry lovers were still holding on to their beloved BBs, even after their not-so-crazy BB-loving friends and acquaintances had moved onto other platforms, namely iOS and Android.

One reason a lot of people switched to other devices was the requirement of BIS on their BBs, without which the phone was practically a rock. The cost of BIS here in India is Rs 499, not much of a problem for older BB users but definitely a major concern for teenagers.

Other less significant reasons for deserting their Berrys were the clock of death (which drove every user up the wall), and the lifetime it took for the phone to restart. The camera, which was never great to begin with, was surprisingly not a criterion.

Most Indian teenagers today prioritize fun over productivity. What does this group of people look for in a phone? An informally conducted survey brings the following results. The basic needs, apparently, are:

  • Apps. Because we have all the time in the world to stay glued to our phones 24/7.
  • A good camera. Understandable, but the old BB camera was never an issue!
  • Games. Again, too much time on our hands.
  • More apps. WHAT FOR?!

The migration to Android and iOS seems to have hypnotized Indians into thinking “this is it. This is the best phone I’ll ever have.” Unfortunately, even the most tech-savvy teenagers are unaware of the fact that BlackBerry 10 was even born. You pass by mobile stores, an average of 4-5 on every street in India. Each store has a banner hung outside, with pictures of various cellphones on it. For some reason, every Samsung/HTC/Nokia/iOS device on said banner is the latest version, whereas the BB (thanks for even giving us a place here) is a BBOS device, generally a 9700.

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Most users have the same story to tell. They were BlackBerry users. They loved the keyboard and BBM. They switched to Android because that’s where all the apps were at. They switched to iPhone “because it’s an iPhone.” They’re happy that BBM is cross platform now. BUT they still miss the keyboard, and the BBM experience on iOS/Android isn’t quite the same. Certain loyalists still carry BBOS devices as their secondary phones, only because they can’t let go of that keyboard. And BBM.

Once in a blue moon, you will come across a BlackBerry 10 user. Once in 4 blue moons, you’ll meet someone who even knows BlackBerry 10 exists. And neither of these users will know what a BB10 device is capable of. The complaint about lack of apps is still there. You tell these users about Android runtime on BB10 phones. They get it – but do the others?

There’s a routine I like to follow. Pick a random, seemingly intelligent person who might just understand why BlackBerry 10 is the best OS at the moment. Take them on a tour of the features, the UI, the OS, everything. All of these people are fascinated by the Hub, and when the Android apps are mentioned they’re amazed.

Sometimes I succeed – three days later the same people can’t stop gushing about their phones to everyone they meet. Sometimes it’s a disappointment. Disappointment, not surprise, because the Indian market works in a strange way. Influence is the only factor that affects the success of a product/service. If 9 people go for a certain product, the 10th one will too, because hey, the other 9 did!

There is TONS of potential in the Indian market for BlackBerry. The only obstacle is the fact that the mentality of an Indian is very different from that of a consumer anywhere else in the world. Indians are frugal minded to an extent where the price of a certain good, a phone in this case, holds priority over the quality. Lower priced phones, if marketed and distributed in the right way, can make a huge difference.

Indian advertisements are another tool for BB to boost its popularity. Take for example the commercial for 9220 when it came out. It was nothing like previous BlackBerry ads, it was very Indianized. Catchy. The result was that the 9220 became one of the most popular BlackBerry devices in just a few weeks.

Print media still holds significance over electronic media in India. With most people still relying on newspapers for their information, the print industry is the best area for BlackBerry to choose to market its products even better. Newspapers and magazines influence the Indian mind like none other.

The situation isn’t all that bad, however. The Passport is gaining all the attention it deserves thanks to an upgrade in BlackBerry’s marketing policy. BlackBerry is going back to its root i.e enterprise, and the people in this field still praise and miss their good old BlackBerrys. It would be exciting to see how they welcome the upcoming models sporting the latest software that can do practically everything a phone should be able to do – and a lot more.

BlackBerry has done an average job with marketing a delivery, but John Chen – kudos to this man – has won the hearts of many stockholders as they’re giving the company another chance. BlackBerry under Mr. Chen is showing signs of whooping success already. Lets see how he delivers these new products which he believes are capable of winning back the suit and tie crowd!