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Rajeev Suri: The Right Choice for Nokia

Ray Le Maistre

It will come as no surprise to many that Rajeev Suri has been named as the CEO of the "new" Nokia, now that the devices business has been sold to Microsoft: What's left of the Finnish firm largely comprises NSN, of which Suri has been the CEO since October 2009.

What might be up for debate is whether Suri is the right person for the job. There might be some who think that an external appointment would make sense to take Nokia, which does have two other units (HERE and Technologies, as well as NSN), into its next corporate phase. (See Nokia Ushers In New Era, Retires NSN Name.)

Suits Nokia
Rajeev Suri is the right person to lead the 'new' Nokia.
Rajeev Suri is the right person to lead the 'new' Nokia.

But this is not the time to rock the boat or to take risks. Nokia Networks (NSN), which is now to be called Networks within the new Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), generates the vast majority of the company's revenues, about 87%, and has been steadily improving its margins and overall financial health following a major restructuring program that was first announced in November 2011. (See NSN Unveils Its Kill List, NSN to Restructure, and NSN Could Lose More Than 17,000 Staff.)

That restructuring could have been the death of NSN. Instead it has ended up being the savior of Nokia -- if the NSN revamp had failed, Nokia would no longer exist at all, let alone in its new, slimmed-down format.

The success of the restructuring is primarily down to Suri's focus, determination, and calm leadership -- he has had to rip apart a large company, sell non-core assets and preside over mass redundancies, a task that has been tough but which was necessary for long-term survival: NSN now has 48,500 staff compared with more than 74,000 in late 2011. (See NSN to Sell Optical Business and Redknee to Acquire NSN's BSS Biz.)

And right from the time he took over as CEO at NSN he preached a story of survival and focused on mobile broadband, professional services, and customer experience management (CEM) as the three areas where NSN could deliver what customers needed and wanted. (See NSN CEO: Don't Write Our Obituary.)

After more than four years at the helm of NSN, Suri knows the operation inside out and the staff, customers, and partners know him well too. The short- and medium-term financial health of Nokia will be determined by how well NSN/Networks performs, and Suri has got that business to where it is today. Bringing in someone above him, who would then want to bring in their own senior management team, would have been a big mistake, but one that could easily have been made. The Nokia board has made the right choice.

I have met Suri on numerous occasions and he comes across as a very thoughtful character with very clear ideas of what he wants to do and how he wants to do it. (See NSN CEO: We've Got Our Mojo Back, NSN's Rajeev Suri: Restructuring, Research & Resilience, and NSN's Rajeev Suri: Carrier Capex & Customer Experience.)

He's also very calm, even when provoked by excitable media types, and that's what Nokia needs right now -- a CEO that can be depended upon to deliver a clear vision and then stick to that vision without any wild surprises.

After years of turmoil, Suri is the right person to provide the kind of leadership Nokia needs just now.

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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Susan Fourtané
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
5/3/2014 | 8:00:58 AM
Re: just right

He was a good leader at NSN, there is no reason why he woudn't be one now. 

Susan Fourtané
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
5/3/2014 | 7:36:46 AM
Re: just right

"Changes are not new to Nokia as it is a company that changed its core business many times thoughout the past century and with Rajeev on board, the boat is ready to sail again."

Exactly. :)

At this point a new change is simply one more chapter in the big book of Nokia. Next year it will be its 150th anniversary. It's quite likely that there will be more to celebrate than just the anniversary.

At this point and after mourning for the handsets unit, Nokia is ready to put itself together and show some sisu. :D 

User Rank: Blogger
4/29/2014 | 4:27:42 PM
Re: just right
Yes, we'll see. A lot of Nokia fans right now seem to be still pining for the devices unit. Can he get people to believe in a different identity under the familiar name?
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
4/29/2014 | 4:13:09 PM
Re: just right
I suspect the industry will adopt a wait-and-see attitude until he actually achieves some of these objectives but if he succeeds, more power to him. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
4/29/2014 | 8:48:52 AM
just right
He is what the industry needs at this stage, a CEO bold enough to come up with a turnaround plan and effectively execute it. Thumbs up for the work he did at NSN.

Changes are not new to Nokia as it is a company that changed its core business many times thoughout the past century and with Rajeev on board, the boat is ready to sail again.
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