Nokia, the world’s largest handset vendor, it looking to rural India to drive growth as it attempts to curb a recent downturn in performance. According to a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report, the Finnish vendor plans to sell handsets in some rural Indian areas under a programme that allows the purchasers to pay in installments. The report notes that Nokia plans to roll out the installment scheme to sell its handsets in 12 Indian states after a pilot programme covering more than 2,500 villages in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The report adds that under the pilot programme a micro-finance organisation bought handsets from Nokia and sold them to women in rural areas by charging them INR100 (US$2) for up to 25 weeks.

According to Wireless Intelligence, India is the world’s second-largest mobile market with 427 million connections as of end-2Q09. It is the world’s fastest-growing major market and is expected to hit almost 500 million connections by the end of the year. “There is a lot of opportunity here and we need to make mobility more accessible to all people, including those in rural areas, which is the next frontier to be conquered,” Nokia chief executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo (pictured, top left) said yesterday, reports the WSJ. “We believe that much of this growth will take place in non-urban markets and rural penetration in India is still very low at 13 percent,” the company added in a statement. Certainly Nokia would benefit from further strengthening its position in this huge emerging market. Last month it reported a 66 percent annual decline in 2Q09 net profit and a 25 percent year-on-year fall in revenue.