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BlackBerry Country

Trinidad - Smartphone’s phenomenal success creates small biz windfall

Hendrickson Herbert, owner of a successful small business with three outlets, is a busy man – so why is he spending his Thursday morning listening to speeches in the Scarlet Ibis Room of the Trinidad Hilton? The proprietor of telecom and electronics dealership Mobility Biz Solutions and Services Ltd, along with scores of other bmobile dealers, were meeting to discuss what has been for them a veritable profit machine – BlackBerry smartphones. Last June, TSTT in collaboration with RIM and SPRINT completed an expansion program to triple its capacity of local bmobile BlackBerry users. That is just one indicator of how successful BlackBerry has been for bmobile dealers like Mobility Biz?

“Quite honestly,” Mr Herbert says, “our revenues just based on BlackBerry literally double in the months that there is a bmobile promotion. I would think that once we have a continued supply of the product there will be consistently high revenues.”

The Mobility Biz CEO was part of a network of small business entrepreneurs TSTT had engaged to support the nationwide deployment of bmobile dealerships and who are now riding the wave of TSTT’s leadership in the rapidly expanding BlackBerry market. Incredibly, TSTT has 100-plus independent BlackBerry dealer locations nationwide, by far Trinidad and Tobago’s largest sales network for the smartphones. These independent entrepreneurs have helped bmobile dominate the smartphone market to the point where TSTT and its dealer partners’ are stretched to meet demand.

“We can’t seem to get them fast enough. We have a waiting list of customers and the handsets are sold before we get them into the store,” Mr. Herbert says. The Thursday morning workshop, hosted by bmobile and Research in Motion (RIM-makers of BlackBerry smartphones) gave the businessmen a look at some of the future plans in TSTT and RIM to support dealers and the further growth of their businesses.

“Bringing the dealers together with RIM and TSTT was the best way for them to understand what we’re doing to support their success ,” Jay Alvi, TSTT’s Executive Vice President – Enterprise Services, explained. “We want to demonstrate to them that TSTT’s and RIM’s plans are in part guided by the feedback they have been providing on the particular needs. We intend to spend more time with the dealers and do so continuously.”

 

TSTT, like RIM, are being proactive in their relationship with the dealers and each other.

“Trinidad is an excellent market for BlackBerry,” Angela Friar, RIM Carrier Relationship Manager says. “We see Trinidad as a very fast-growing BlackBerry country. The uptake has been phenomenal with the product and in terms of mobile penetration with BlackBerry, it’s very high.”

She continues, “We work very closely with bmobile and TSTT’s commercial departments and one way that we support them is channel-specific – helping the sell-through of the product, supporting their special offers and great pricing. They’ve just done a great expansion to dealer stores so we thought it would be a great opportunity to get in there with the dealer partners and start enhancing that BlackBerry/bmobile/dealership partnership more.”

What caused the local BlackBerry phenomenon? Trinidad and Tobago’s intensely competitive mobile market was fertile ground for BlackBerry’s ascension. Figures from as early as 2007 showed there was more than 100 percent mobile penetration (more phones than people). But the key to the smartphones’ recent success both locally and globally was RIM’s strategic vision. They went from providing a strictly business productivity tool to include consumer-oriented phones with social networking capability.

“We launched BlackBerry in 2005,” Jay Alvi recounts. “It was primarily for the business community. We sold them only to our enterprise customers. Then what RIM did was come out with the Pearl. It was targeted to the regular consumer. They started making phones which included social networking programmes like (BlackBerry) Messenger and Facebook, cameras, media players. They really upped the game.”

The other key to unlocking the local market potential – price: “What we wanted to do was make owning a BlackBerry more affordable to the consumer,” Mr Alvi continues. “We began carrying the (Curve) 8520. The cost point was lower. Prior to that a smartphone was over $2,000, we sold the Curve for $499. After that it just went gangbusters. You had a good price point and a very effective marketing programme and we have been seeing double digit growth year on year.”

RIM’s Angela Friar concurs: “definitely we saw that a lot of our growth, especially in Trinidad, was with the launch of the 8520 device. We saw a whole new demographic, a whole new exponential growth of people that didn’t access BlackBerry before because of the price point. Also too, some of bmobile’s low-tier data plans such as B Social and B Socialite, made it much more affordable for a younger demographic to make full use of all of the key data features on our smartphones.”

The result has been transformative change in the mobile landscape. BlackBerry is seen both as a vital business device and a stylish, multi-feature accessory for instant communication.

Next step: more apps + better service = more market share “It’s been good and I expect the ride to continue,” Mr Alvi says, echoing the sentiments of dealers like Hendrickson Herbert. To cater for the skyrocketing number of BlackBerry users TSTT expanded their network in late June.

“Last year, because we were so successful we have gone from one to two international links – a main link with US telecom provider Sprint, which gives us more capacity and a redundancy link. We have widened the pipe and added a redundant pipe.”

Mr Alvi see’s greater emphasis on customer and dealer support through promoting the feature-filled mobile phones and more software applications . “The key thing is the applications. One of the things we have been asking RIM for is applications support. How do we make them available to customers? We’ve got to tell our customers what the next killer apps are and push them.”

RIM already provides both online and in-store training to dealers’ sales representatives, who in turn are better able to give technical support to customers. Bmobile is embarking on initiative called “Demo Days” at its outlets to provide smartphone owners with the chance to learn from specialists on how to make the most of the features on their devices.

For the owner of Mobility Biz the BlackBerry phenomenon represents one of many plateaus in the country’s increasingly fast-paced communications’ technology development.

“In my opinion TSTT is at the forefront of bringing converging technologies to Trinidad and Tobago. With both broadband and mobile networks an with the continued integration of the Internet and mobile technologies globally, they have brought the true 3G capability of their network to the end-user in all spectrums of society, both social and business. The future looks very promising.”