India will play a critical role in Nokia's "next phase of journey" as the iconic brand re-enters the fiercely competitive global smartphone market that is currently dominated by Samsung and Apple.
HMD Global, which has struck a 10-year brand licensing agreement with Nokia for mobile phones and tablets, will launch a slew of devices globally in the first half of 2017.
Speaking to PTI, HMD Global CEO Arto Nummela said: "India is key market for Nokia's next phase of this journey. It is absolutely important. We want to be successful (in India) and we will also tailor our offerings not only for feature phones, but for smartphones for Indian consumers."
HMD has roped in former Microsoft India country manager (Mobile Devices Sales group) Ajey Mehta as the vice-president of its India operations.
India is one of the fastest growing smartphone markets globally. Also, even though the feature phone market has been gradually shrinking in the country, the segment still accounts for a major chunk of the shipment numbers.
According to research firm IDC, smartphone shipments in India grew 11 per cent to 32.3 million smartphones in July-September quarter compared with the year-ago period.
The overall mobile phone market (smartphone and feature phones) shipment closed at 72.3 million units in the third quarter with an 18.1 per cent sequential growth.
Samsung holds the numero uno position in the Indian smartphone market, followed by Lenovo and Micromax.
HMD will launch smartphone products in the first half of 2017 while Nokia-branded feature phones are expected to come in within this month, Nummela said.
In 2014, Microsoft had acquired Nokia's handset business for USD 7.2 billion. Nokia had retained the rights to the brand name and also inked a non-compete clause with the US-based company. The non-compete clause expires in the coming week.
Earlier this year, Microsoft sold the feature phone business to HMD Global and contract manufacturer Foxconn for USD 350 million.
HMD is ditching Microsoft's Windows OS in favour of Google's Android OS that has the lion's share among smartphones. Foxconn will manufacture the Nokia-branded mobile phones and tablets.
"We are developing an exciting new consumer-centric product range which will focus on innovation, quality and experience, alongside the iconic Nokia mobile phone attributes of design, robustness, and reliability," he said.
Nokia has been one of the most iconic and recognisable phone brands globally for decades and HMD is excited to re-introduce this much-loved, well-known and trusted brand, he added.
Under the agreement, Nokia will receive royalty payments from HMD for sale of every Nokia branded mobile phone and tablet, covering both brand and intellectual property rights. Nokia is not an investor or shareholder in HMD.