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Nokia launches mobile apps to help Indian farmers

News of the Google internet bus tour got me thinking about Nokia’s recentĀ  initiative to engage rural Indian communities.

Multinationals have long come in for criticism over their conduct in emerging markets, however, mobile telecommunications is one area where development can be a win-win both for global brands and the customers they serve.

Agriculture is an unpredictable business, especially in rural India, where decision-making is often-made with little or no access to information about how much crops will be worth until they get to market. As a response to this, Nokia is launching an innovative set of mobile applications to help its core customer base of rural farmers with their everyday business.

LifeTools is a simple, but pragmatic set of services giving users access to localised information about weather, agricultural prices and tips. In addition, the services also provide educational and entertainment content including tools to help users learn English, listen to music and check the cricket scores. From a technology perspective, Nokia has wisely decided to go back to basics, using SMS technology rather than GPRS, to ensure maximum coverage.

LifeTools' simple interface is compatible with the most basic phones
LifeTools' simple interface is compatible with the most basic phones

While Nokia may be struggling to compete with Apple in the high-end space, it has long been the major player in emerging markets like India, where it has an astonishing 70% share of mobile handset sales. The demand for iPhone in the US and Europe might grab all the headlines, however, it is emerging markets that offer the greatest long-term opportunity for mobile services.

Furthermore, as many rural areas do not benefit from fixed-line infrastructure, many of these consumers’ first experience of the internet will be via their mobile phone. While it’s too early to evaluate the success of Lifetools, the offering seems practical, well-targeted and shows that Nokia understands the needs of its core customers, something that is key to engendering brand loyalty.

While it might be a while before Indian farmers are able to subscribe to Twitter on their phones, the launch of LifeTools is a great first move by Nokia and one that positions it well for the future.

To find out more, check out the Nokia LifeTools Presentation

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