Today, we caught up with Ajey Mehta, the man given the coveted task of rekindling the Nokia phones growth story in India.
Today, we caught up with Ajey Mehta, the man given the coveted task of rekindling the Nokia phones growth story in India. What better leader than someone who has been associated with the Nokia brand for over 14 years!
Here are excerpts from our interview…Hello Ajey, tell us, in nutshell, who are you?
I am Ajey Mehta, VP and Country Head for HMD Global. My role, currently, is to bring back Brand Nokia in the consumer devices category.What’s your Nokia story?
It’s a very energizing and exciting story. What has kept me endeared with Nokia is the values that the brand stands for – the values of honesty, transparency, humility, reliability, and authenticity. It is on the back of these values that I have ridden the ups and downs Nokia has faced – and I’ve enjoyed every moment if it.
How have you approached change – from Nokia to Microsoft to HMD Global?
I’ve always approached change with an extremely positive mindset. I look at change as an opportunity and that’s how it has always emerged.
When we moved from Nokia to Microsoft, we were excited with this coming together of two iconic brands. Of course, things panned out differently. But when we spun off with HMD Global on December 1, 2016, I saw a massive opportunity there to rekindle the brand in an operating system of our choice – which was Android.
I approach change with a calm mind. And I leave myself open to learning new skills and picking up new abilities. Learning agility, resilience, calmness, and focus – I think these are some of the qualities that have helped me turn change into opportunity.Tell us what the journey has been like to get to where you are today…
It’s been a lot of fun. Thanks to my journey I have crisscrossed four continents and lived in three. It’s been very energizing for me and it has given me a truly global exposure and experience. When I look back, life has been so exciting that I can’t wait for the next disruption and change to come.How do you see HMD Global and Nokia Mobile growing as a consumer brand?
There is a massive opportunity for HMD Global to grow with Nokia Mobile in the coming years.
More than 70 per cent of our mobiles sold so far have been bought by millennials. This is quite contrary to what people expected; they said Nokia was a brand with a lot of legacy and would appeal only to the older demographic, but that hasn’t been the case at all.
Our start in India has been extremely encouraging. Of course, we’ve only taken baby steps; there’s a long way to go. But I see a lot of optimism around the Nokia brand.
One quality that I place a lot of importance on, and what I’ve learned from the Finns, is ‘sisu’. It’s a Finnish word which embodies perseverance, staying focused in the face of adversity, and not giving up. And that is exactly what the Nokia brand is about and that is exactly what our team at HMD Global is about. We’re not going to give up and we are not going to relax till we have taken Nokia where it deserves to be – at the very top.
I am a very family-oriented person. On the weekends I would love to spend time with my wife, kids and the dog at home. I enjoy travelling; once or twice a year we go off on these family holidays. When the family is not around, which happens a lot since I’m constantly travelling for work, I enjoy reading. I like reading books on history, economics, and business journals. And I absolutely love music. I like all genres of music, but I’m partial to 70s, 80s and 90s rock.Which book are you reading right now?
Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari. I’m trying very hard to find time in my schedule to finish the book, but I’m enjoying every minute of reading it.Name three people – past or present – who have inspired you.
It’s difficult to name just three because multiple people have inspired me at various points in my life. I think my father has played a big role in my life and inspired me in a lot of the things that I do today.
Among the more modern leaders, I think Satya [Nadella, CEO, Microsoft] had had quite a positive impact on me in terms of his leadership style, his approach to leadership and how contrasting his style was from his predecessor’s. And the way he moved the whole organization through that transition, was quite an experience for me.
The other, well, not a person, but a race that has really influenced a lot of what I am today are the Finns, the people of Finland. Their quiet confidence, perseverance, and no-nonsense approach have hugely influenced me and have dictated the way I behave and how I am today. In the last 14 years with the Nokia, that has been one of the real takeaways in the way I operate as a manager and as an individual. I’ve learned a lot from the Finnish culture.
When it’s all done and dusted, how would you want to be remembered?
As the man who brought Nokia back, and who took it to the glory it deserves.Tell us something we don’t already know.
I don’t know if everybody knows this, but Nokia has existed for more than 150 years. It was close to bankruptcy a few times over the years, but always came back stronger than it was before. So, Nokia has a history of being a comeback kid and we’re replicating that today.
Finally, any message for our Fans?
Thank you for your support. We are privileged to have you as our Fans. I look forward to engaging with you all and learning more about emerging technologies. I'm sure we'll have a long and fruitful association. Stay tuned for exciting times!
Thanks, Ajey for a great chat!
Fans, whom would you want to meet next? Tell us in the comments!