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Made in India, mobile MNCs' new call

Neha Kaushik
Gaurav Raghuvanshi

New Delhi , April 28

LARA Croft in Tomb Raider may not cut much ice with your cell-phone toting neighbourhood delivery boy even if his handset were to sport it. To the growing tribe of Indian mobile phone users, playing `Makhan Chor' on the mobile would make more sense.

Recognising the importance of going local to appeal to Indian consumers, multinational mobile manufacturers are going beyond the patriotic or Bollywood-centric ring tones and have started introducing special "made for India" features. These include local language menu and messaging, games that click with the masses and features to suit local conditions.

Nokia, which enjoys the highest market share in India, recently launched a campaign positioning its 1100 model as the first "made for India" phone, with features such as dust protection, anti-slip grip and a torch.

While Nokia was the first to introduce Hindi messaging and followed it up with `Makhan Chor,' a game based on Lord Krishna, other manufacturers have lined up special functions adapted for the country.

Samsung India recently introduced mobile phones with multi-language display input in Hindi, Tamil and Marathi and has plans to add more languages in its forthcoming models soon. "We believe our products must connect with the local people. The Indo-Pak Samsung Cricket Cup was a huge success, and we have associated ourselves with the Lakme Fashion Week. In addition, we are launching phones that are compatible with different Indian languages. Our phones feature a better form of predictive text which makes them easier to handle," the Samsung Vice-President (Telecom), Mr Kunal Ahooja, said.

Samsung, incidentally, is doing the research and development for the India-specific software at its R&D facility in Bangalore.

Not to be left behind, LG Electronics plans to add local languages in its cell-phone models soon. "In the first phase, we would roll out a local language menu and messaging facility. We recently added a cricket-based game on some of our models and are working on a software that will make astrology predictions based on the Indian system," said the LG Country Head (Mobile Phones Division), Mr Praveen Valecha.

Sony Ericsson, another leading supplier of mobile handsets, said it had also introduced handsets that have Hindi messaging. "In fact, our phones feature predictive text based on phonetics instead of just letters, which makes punching out messages much easier," said the Sony Ericsson General Manager, Mr Sudhin Mathur.

And that sure makes for a lot of Indian features as cell-phones go desi.

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