New BlackBerry MD for Southern Africa says criticism is one-sided
Criticism in the US media about the state of BlackBerry maker Research in Motion (RIM) is “one-sided” and “one-dimensional” as the company continues to do well in many emerging markets, including SA, Indonesia and Mexico.
That’s the view of Alexandra Zagury, newly appointed Research in Motion MD and vice-president for SA and Southern Africa.
Brazilian-born Zagury, who has been appointed to replace Deon Liebenberg — he left RIM last year to take over as MD of Samsung Electronics in SA — previously led RIM in Turkey.
“When you read all these doom-and-gloom articles about BlackBerry, it’s a very one-sided view from, mostly, the US market,” Zagury says. “Let’s not forget that it’s very one-dimensional, and who said the US is the most advanced market in the world for telecommunications anyway? It isn’t. In the US, if I call you, you pay for me calling you. How is that a developed commercial model? It isn’t. How is that benefiting end users? It isn’t.”
She says that research reports show that BlackBerry continues to do well, with leading market share in smartphones in Nigeria, Indonesia, Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico. It is also strong in some European markets, including the UK, Spain and the Netherlands.
It is also the number one smartphone brand in SA, with seven of the top 10 smartphones sold in May being BlackBerry devices. It was also recently voted as the “coolest youth brand” and 80% of the 300 largest companies listed on the JSE use the company’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server product.
Its share price paints a different picture, though, reflecting the dramatic slowdown in sales in developed markets, especially North America. Over the past 12 months, RIM’s share price is down by more than 75%, with a market valuation of just US$3,5bn — by way of comparison, that is less than half what Microsoft paid for Internet telephony company Skype in 2011.
Zagury, who studied at the London School of Economics and who has worked in Europe and the US for Yahoo, CNBC and Citibank, says her main focus in her new job will be defending BlackBerry’s market share in SA. One of the initiatives already started in this regard is launching new, tiered and cheaper BlackBerry plans through the operators to entice new users.
Zagury says she will also focus on expanding BlackBerry’s presence in the retail channel. Another priority area is ensuring as many BlackBerry users in SA are upgraded to the latest version of BlackBerry’s operating system, version 7.1, she says.