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Nokia sets its sights on emerging markets

Nokia CEO Stephen Elop speaks during an award presentation at the close of the Nokia World 2010 conference at the ExCeL Centre in London, September 15, 2010.

REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

Nokia Corp. , the world's largest manufacturer of mobile devices, is staking part of its long march back to glory on the emerging markets where its brand remains strong.

The Espoo, Finland-based handset and networking equipment giant has seen its market share fall in valuable wireless markets such as the United States, where it has been declining for about a decade. And even in developing countries, Nokia still faces increasing pressure from other telecom equipment makers such as Huawei and ZTE.

But Stephen Elop, the Canadian-born executive who became CEO of the company last fall, says a key pillar of the company's comeback strategy is the "next billion" of consumers in the global south.

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"It's an absolute area of strength," Mr. Elop says. "Just as in the smart phone space, where we need unique differentiation in that area, at the very low-end of the pricing portfolios and emerging markets, it's a time where you need critical differentiation as well. And this is a place where Nokia has some amazingly powerful capabilities."

In India for example, where landline phones are almost non-existent, mobile phone growth is exploding, with companies reporting around 20 million subscribers signing up for new plans every month. Much of this growth is also in rural areas, where cellphones may be the only digital connection for many people -- their only experience with either the Internet or digital technology beyond satellite television.

Mr. Elop is striking deals with Microsoft Corp. to run the Windows mobile operating system on Nokia's smart phones and investigating growth in the tablet space. But he is also relying on unique offerings from Nokia -- such as technology that advises farmers on crop prices in certain local villages -- to cement the company's reputation, as well as present and future market share, in some of the fastest growing mobile markets around.

[Listen to a podcast interview: Iain Marlow talks to Nokia CEO Stephen Elop about the power of emerging markets ]/relation>

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