Nokia Life Tools crafted in India for rural empowerment

-- Anand Parthasarathy reports from Nokia's annual media camp --  April11 '09; CHENNAI: A mobile-phone based self empowering tool crafted by Nokia and aimed at farmers, has just completed its first global pilot in Maharashtra,India and will soon be rolled out across the country -- followed by the launch of localised versions across Asia and Africa.

The "Nokia Life Tools" service will be available initially on the 2320 and 2323 type hand sets, bringing users a comb of agricultural information services as well a word-a-day type English language learning packages -- and interestingly an astrology service.

The package for farmers includes produce market prices, cropping information, weather data and farming advice, some of the inputs sourced from Reuters. The English language and astrology services were put in place after market research in the Indian hinterland and underlines that in rural India too ' we are like that only'... with a belief in the stars -- and aspirations to leverage language skills more associated with the educated middle classes.

Jawahar Kanjilal, global head of Nokia's Emerging Market Services, told a media camp in Chennai , Thursday, that the handset leader used India as the testing ground for its Life Tools reach out -- being aware that the agricultural work force in the country is a formidable 516 million -- that is 58 percent of the population. It takes forward the company's 'mantra' to inform, involve and empower its users and help bridge the divide that separates them from new and emerging markets.

Nokia also used the event to launch a challenge to India-based mobile application developers to come up with innovative applications for the upcoming N 97 handset. The 100 best ideas to flow from Indian brains will be hosted at Nokia's recently announced Ovi Store, an online ' mandi' or market place for mobile phone applications. The N 97 would be the first Nokia handset to be sold in India, embedded with Ovi. The India end of the Forum Nokia developer community, has 160,000 registered users -- the largest national pool of cell phone software geeks anywhere.

In fact the top prize of $ 25,000, in Forum Nokia's recent global Innovation contest went to India-based Santosh Ostwal 's Ossian Agro Automation for his entry which allowed an irrigation pump set to be remotely switched on from any mobile phone -- even the simple Nokia 1100 made-for-India handset.

Also launched this week in India, is Nokia's N-Gage gaming service, which comes with a number of local games selections from developers like IndiaGames. To fuel the games business, Nokia has tied up with online payments aggregator Oxigen.

Nokia's Vice President and India Managing Director D. Shivakumar, who,like all his senior colleagues, donned the colours of the Indian Premier League team, the Kolkata Knight Riders, (Nokia is the team's 'presenting sponsor) before facing the media's googlies in Chennai, said " It's no longer a voice-led world. The future is digital, mobile, virtual and personal".

"An always -on infrastructure and an always -on customer -- that is the future in the wireless world", Shiva added, "Nokia seeks to move from from devices to solutions... the stand-alone product era is over. Now it is products plus services plus accessories".