Rabia Azfar is working with Nokia Pakistan as Solution Manager, Near East. She talks to MORE Magazine about how well Nokia Pakistan is performing in the application development domain. Below is what she shares with our readers;
Please tell about your professional career?
I am an engineer by qualification and did my bachelor from Dawood College of Engineering and Technology. During last 16 years of my professional career i have worked with various national and multinational companies. In my career i’ve spent most of my time with technology related assignments. Prior to Nokia, i was working with Wateen Telecom were i took care of their physical network. At Nokia, i’m dealing with more softer side of technology. Here, my customers are developers, brands, cellular operators and all those who complete the life cycle of our ecosystem.
Technology is a male dominated sector in Pakistan, do you find yourself comfortable?
Yes it is true that it is a male dominated area but to be very honest, i have never felt any issue that could discourage me being a female. Rather, it is very friendly and accommodating industry for females in Pakistan.
Although, many people will argue with me on my statement but my personal experience is that where ever i have worked my bosses have always been very kind and supportive to me.
For example, in my past job, i was involved in the external management of WiMax towers and for that i had to deal with rented properties, fuel issues, landlord related problems for acquiring and maintaining the site – all this stuff which is mainly handled by male staff – but it has never been a barrier for me. I would say Pakistan is a better working place for women as compared to other countries.
Yes, growth is a challenging task being a female. But this is not only an issue in Pakistan rather, it is a phenomenon prevailing all over the world. I think you have to an go an extra mile to prove yourself in this dominating community.
What is the local trend of application development in Pakistan and what is happening globally?
Pakistan is picking up, when we started our communication and dialogue with the developer community back in 2010, we realized that people perceived us a difficult platform.
After analyzing the entire situation very deeply, we found out that whatever Nokia is doing globally is not being communicated well in Pakistan. Therefore, we increased the pace of our communication with the developer community, started supported them, gave them easy access to all the latest tools for the development because we believe these developers are ambassadors for Nokia in front of an end customer.
In 2010, we were recording 50,000 downloads per week from Pakistan but now our application store is witnessing 2 million downloads in a week from Pakistan. Earlier, we had only 50 application developers in Pakistan and that figure has gone up to 350 developers who are contributing on Nokia’s store.
Globally, people do feel proud to be associated with certain competitors in the market but in the emerging markets like Pakistan we certainly dominate in the developers as well as consumers community which is quite evident from the numbers and market behavior. We are getting support from cellular operators, brands, students and faculty as well. If you say, world is going faster, you can also say we at Nokia have picked up that pace.
Then why developers prefer to make apps for Android and Apple rather Nokia?
I would argue. Last year, Telenor conducted a competition that was open for all platforms including Nokia, Android, Apple (iOS). The winning criteria was, the application, that will get the maximum downloads will win.
Organizers acknowledged the fact that there were larger number of developers registered for the Nokia platform in the competition.
Eventually we saw a Nokia developer winning the competition and getting the prize.
So, i would say It is just being misunderstood that it’s kind of easy to work on Android rather than Nokia platform. During past few years, we have changed the perception and people are now quite comfortable with the new technologies and tools that we have introduced.
How Nokia application developer is going to earn and how you plan to fight piracy?
As far as the economic aspect is concerned, only Nokia app store has its presence in Pakistan. As per latest statistics, 99% of content in Pakistan is downloaded freely and only 1% downloaded content is paid. Being the market leader we don’t see that number going up because of so many reasons, such as, the access of credit card and those who have are reluctant to use on internet.
To cater that, we are working hard to give the revenue part to our developers. We are bringing a mechanism through operator integration and we will be the first one in Pakistan, Inshallah to come up with such an idea.
It will be a prepaid card based infrastructure where buyer will be able to pay through his/her mobile balance and same will be transferred to the application developer through cellular operator. There will be no need to involve the credit card. This would be the easiest way to buy content online.
For the piracy part, our structure is very strong. You must have heard about our competitors that when a new app comes to their store, a copy of it somehow finds its place there which then becomes the heaven for piracy lovers. On Nokia store you will not see any such thing. We have a strong complaint management system. Whenever some developer reports us about a copied content, we take that content off immediately and take strict actions.
What are major partnerships Nokia has made?
There are many but i can give you few examples, we have partnered with ARY digital network. We did a Ramadan campaign with them last year. They built two application for their TV channels – Ary Q TV and Ary Zauk. This year also we are going with the same partnership with much extensive participation and lot more apps. We recently signed an agreement with Dawn Group for their magazine and Urdu content as well. We are also working with Tribune and many other media houses.
Tricastmedia Pvt Ltd is a Lahore based organization and we have worked with them very aggressively to build up local board games such as Cricket Companion, Carrom, Ludo etc. The good part is these games are not only developed for Pakistan, rather, they are being downloaded globally. The response from the end customer is tremendous.
We have also partnered with different brands in Pakistan and also talking to multinational companies to bring good quality and relevant content to the local community.
Nokia leads in the entry level phones. Can that phone offer graphics rich applications?
We have recently introduced Electronics Arts (EA) that is available on our low price phones. Our recently launched phones Nokia 110 and Nokia 112 have graphic rich games. Similarly Angry Bird is available on our S40 based device 303.
Basically, Angry Bird was developed on Web Apps and Web Apps is now available for developers to do any sort of content on S40 devices of Nokia. So there is no constraint in terms of rich graphics on lower end phones. Although our share in smart devices is low but that does not affect the graphic rich application development as our lower end phones support that kind of content.
How government of Pakistan is supporting application development?
Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has supported us a lot. When we started our ecosystem drive in Pakistan we received a healthy support from many private and public organizations.
There are some CSR initiatives of Nokia where Government and other public organizations support us a lot including UNESCO, BUNYAD, Punjab Literacy Board.