Anyone that doubts the future of Research In Motion and the BlackBerry brand need look no further than the developing markets outside of North America to see that not only is RIM not dead, it is in fact flourishing in other parts of the world. South Africa, Indonesia, and Mexico are all huge contributors to revenue, with Nigeria soon to be added to the list. Robert Bose, head of RIM for Central Europe, Middle East and Africa, revealed at BlackBerry World that within the next two months a BlackBerry office will open in Lagos, making Nigeria a specific target market.
Nigeria currently has a very small smartphone market at this time with only 5% of phone users owning one. However, BlackBerry is the number one smartphone brand with half of that market already using the RIM made devices. With inexpensive unlimited internet plans and the high popularity of BlackBerry Messenger in this region (97% of BlackBerry users in Nigeria use BBM) combined with inexpensive phones such as the BlackBerry Curve 8520, it's no wonder the brand has gone viral. It's not just a matter of money, however. BlackBerry was voted as the most popular phone among teenagers and there was even a series of Nollywood films released last year called BlackBerry Babes focusing on how your social status can be harmed if you don't own a BlackBerry. All of this, without any direct representation of the brand.
Don't let yourself be fooled by the popularity low-end devices. High-end devices such as the Bold 9900 sell just as well as the more inexpensive Curve line. "A lot of people expect that the only devices we would sell in Nigeria would be the 8520 or the cheapest phones,” says Waldi Wepener, RIM's regional director for East, Central and West Africa. “But we sell as many at the high end. Because Nigeria is not a subsidized market, and operators don't subsidize devices down to zero, the price of the device at the user level is very visible. And that doesn't hold back the market.”
So what does all of this mean for RIM and BlackBerry? There is currently a market of 100 million phone users, with 5 million of those people using smartphones, and half of that number are BlackBerry smartphones. It's only a matter of time until the population begins to migrate en masse to smartphones, which opens up tens of millions of new users for RIM in the next few years. And that's just in Nigeria. Research In Motion already has stores opening across India and the Middle East where BlackBerry sales have been thriving. Of course, winning back the North American market is still important and most would agree that it's crucial to RIM's survival for the long run. But that is a battle that will take a lot of work and won't be won overnight. It's good to know that in the meantime, BlackBerry and Research In Motion aren't going under, they're simply winning over other markets while rebuilding their image back home.