In 2016, the CEO of BlackBerry John Chen declared that the company had suffered a loss of $372 Million, which was a massive blow indeed. The company was compelled to shelf the hardware business that manufactured the iconic phones. This Canadian company was not the first name to have tumultuous times in business. With the invention of the Internet and technological advances, the companies, especially the tech companies need to ‘adapt’. Else, failure is inevitable. Before BlackBerry the billion-dollar company Apple was on the verge of utter bankruptcy. But, Steve Jobs changed the course of the company within a couple of months. Rest is history.
While brushing across the timeline of BlackBerry, one can find several misjudgements and wrong decisions. BlackBerry could have reacted in different ways to save from swirling into the black hole of irrelevance in the era of the digital revolution. The very first BlackBerry was 850 model, with nothing more than two-way pager and limited HTML functionality. It could not be used as a phone, but it helped the users to be connected continuously to the Microsoft Outlook. The product was owned by RIM, and the users seemed to connect emotionally to the brand, giving it a stable market. From 1999 to 2007, the brand that can be called RIM or later BlackBerry dominated the stock market and consumer demands. It successfully became the darling of Wall Street and the envy of the other tech giants. Times were glorious for the brand BlackBerry.
BlackBerry upgraded the models from 850 to 950 and 957. The big screen and the iconic keyboard revolutionized the evolving mobile technology. In 2002, BlackBerry introduced the application of Data and Voice on the same voice. The model BlackBerry 5810 was equipped with earbuds for best user experience. Two more models were lined after with not much time gap, models 6810 and 6820. Within a couple of years, the brand brought forth colour screens. But, that was not it. The company then launched devices with a camera, colour screens and trackball. BlackBerry seemed to have unattainable heights. The possession of BlackBerry became a status symbol. It improved the user experience, making it a favourite of global consumers.
The digital Revolution swept the trends of communication technology. BlackBerry modified the features as per whims, as per the consumer preference. The company noted that some of the features were consistently favoured by the consumers, and therefore decided to keep them intact. The market conditions were constantly shifting. The brands of China, Korea etc started interfering in the mobile phone business. The competitive and volatile market conditions needed innovations and not stasis.
In 2003, the co-CEO of BlackBerry Mike Lazaridis expressed his views that the camera phones would be rejected by the corporate users. With the dawn of the new century, when the companies were inclined towards innovations and creating buzz, this one was considering itself to be strictly into enterprise business. BlackBerry continued thinking itself as just a producer of phones, and completely misjudged the emotional connection that the users had. In 2006, BlackBerry launched Pearl, with camera and colour screens, and that was the last buzz it created. The consumers were satisfied and emotionally attached to it. But what lies next? The consumers always want more. The company failed to fathom the changing landscape, just like the mistakes committed by Kodak.
Before the launch of Pearl, the most successful BlackBerry model, Nokia and Palm Treo had already launched mobile phones with colour screens. Brands like Motorola and LG launched their models with unique designs and stylish appeal. With an innovative approach reaching the sky, BlackBerry continued to ape the coming trends. Whatever was trending, BlackBerry responded by just mimicking the features. It is during this time, BlackBerry started losing its signature, its DNA. It started losing the emotional connection that it once enjoyed, in the initial years. At this juncture, the iPhone was launched, highly advanced yet simple. The iPhone had a full touch screen, without any concept of keyboards. It was a giant leap in mobile technology.
RIM could not gauge how fast the technological landscape was changing, and also the direction it followed. The brand tried the same methods, mimicking others and gained the identity of a mere “fast follower”. RIM underestimated the power of its competitor iPhone, which continued newer and upgraded models quite frequently. Even, brands like Motorola Droid and Nokia started hitting the shelves and expanding market share. RIM kicked off with PlayBook Tablet and Torch. But the new products were not welcomed by the consumers with warm hearts. BlackBerry started its downward by the end of the first decade. In 2010, iPhone 4 was launched and added nails to the coffin of BlackBerry.
BlackBerry lacked technical competence and app development, in comparison to its immediate competitors like Apple and Android. The company failed to appeal to the changing consumer demands and preferences, like front and back cameras. With changing times, mobile phones became more about cameras and user experience. In 2013, RIM finally changed the name to BlackBerry officially, but this step did not create any excitement among users. By that time, they were engrossed with the other brands like Samsung, Sony, LG, Nokia etc. The problem with Blackberry was, “that they made the wrong choices. They didn’t fail to adapt; they failed to make the correct adaptations.”
BlackBerry lacked innovation and witnessed a stasis that was harmful in the volatile competitive market. BlackBerry Messaging service was very popular among teenagers and young users. When other phones had limited messaging facilities, BBM came up with interesting features. But with the explosion of social networking sites, the BBM features bland. They thought of limiting the access of BBM to BlackBerry users exclusively. But, they changed the decision finally after all, and it was too late then. Whatsapp Messenger etc were already popular among the masses.
The operating system of BB was also not as advanced as Android and Apple. Like Nokia, BB was rigid with using its own OS for a long time. “BlackBerry’s success of selling to IT departments of huge corporations is what kept the momentum. Imagine the Sales Director of BlackBerry seeing 90% of all revenue coming from Enterprise, it would have been easy for him to just focus on this market segment and forget that anything else existed. However, their neglect of not focusing on the consumer electronic market failed to appeal to the casual audience which made up more of the market.”
From “the biggest and most important smartphone maker in the world” to the state of bankruptcy, the brand had an epic journey. With some major wrong decisions, the brand BlackBerry lost all that it had achieved in a span of a few years. From this failure story, the businesses and entrepreneurs can learn some lessons.
- Never underestimate competitors: This is one of the major blunders that can demolish the business within no time. Once successful business ventures, like that of Nokia and Kodak committed the blunder of underestimating their competitors and the result was terrible. While stepping into the market, it is imperative to know the competition.
- Being stubborn and rigid comes at a cost: When in business, it is crucial to be adaptive and flexible. The market conditions are never the same, they are volatile. If anything is constant, that is change. BB was rigid in limiting the access to only BB holders, by the time it wanted to move from rigidness, it was too late. Customer is king. The business decisions have to change as per the consumer demands.
- Mimicking will not do any good: Aping competitors is the last thing that one should do, in any domain. The businesses should come up with an innovative approach, not just copying others. Mere imitation can destroy the signature of the product. Royal Enfield rose like a Phoenix with innovative features, but it kept its signature intact.
The volatile market conditions and the steep competitions can be an obstruction in your way, but there ways to overcome them as well. There is a saying that “Man proposes. God disposes”. You never know what is there in future, what you think is right now, but that may not feel right in future. In order to avoid such business blunders and mental turmoil, you can take certain steps, like talking to the experts in detail. Years of experience, both good and bad, have honed their professional skills and business acumen.
It is good if you want to follow your passion and be your own boss. You want to avoid such mistakes, but who can guide you? Google will give you hundreds of websites, but an expert will guide you thoroughly in your journey. Do you want to talk to experts in detail? Talk to our niche skilled experts now to know the diverse competitive market in greater detail! We at Vedak have an exclusive pool of experienced industry professionals and veterans who have in-depth knowledge about the business nitty-gritty. Contact us to know