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Vikas Agarwal, General Manager, OnePlus India
Agarwal spoke to us about what has worked in the brand’s favor in the last few years, how it has been able to woo audie...
brands

As India becomes second largest smartphone user in the world, OnePlus is boosting its offline presence in the country to find new customers

Agarwal spoke to us about what has worked in the brand’s favor in the last few years, how it has been able to woo audie...
  • While the brand currently has 30 stores in Tier I cities, it plans to open 100 stores in top 50 cities this year.
  • The brand is also expanding its team, from the current 400, it aims to expand its team to 1000 within the next 3 years.
  • Data from the Counterpoint Research also revealed that OnePlus was one of the fastest-growing smartphone brands in India in 2019, with around 29% growth in market share.
  • Vikas Agarwal, General Manager, OnePlus India tells us about all that has worked in the brand’s favor in the last few years and how it wants to grow its offline presence substantially in 2020 to find new customers.
If a recently launched report by Counterpoint Research is to be believed, India has dethroned the United States to become the second largest smartphone market in the world. While China continues to be the global leader, India had an estimated 158 million devices shipped to the country in 2019. And most of this growth is being driven by Chinese smartphone makers including Xiaomi, Realme, Vivo and Oppo, amongst others.

To understand the opportunity that India presents to smartphone makers now, considering the sheer size of the market and an increase in the number of people wanting to own more premium phones, we recently caught up with Vikas Agarwal, General Manager, OnePlus India. Agarwal spoke to us about what has worked in the brand’s favor in the last few years, how it has been able to woo audiences in an already cluttered market and how it wants to grow its offline presence substantially in the next few quarters to find new customers.

OnePlus’ India story so far

When OnePlus launched in India around five years back, it did not use any high-decibel campaign. Instead, it relied completely on word-of-mouth. Five years since, the strategy has paid off well for the brand, which has now started coming up with campaigns, all of which are made in-house. Globally, Robert Downey Jr. is the face of the brand. In terms of its market share, the brand has managed to capture the lion’s share in the premium segment. Data from the Counterpoint Research revealed that OnePlus was one of the fastest-growing smartphone brands in India in 2019, with around 29% growth in market share.

“When we launched in India, we had thought it will take us time to establish ourselves here. We had thought it will take us time to build an interest in the brand but eventually we will have an opportunity as we had entered early. However the success we have received and the response we’ve got from users has been phenomenal and in less than five years we’ve already emerged as the biggest brand in the premium segment. We have also helped the industry grow at a faster pace,” says Agarwal who also shares that globally almost one-third of the brand’s business comes from India, making it the biggest market for the brand.

When asked what are the factors that led an otherwise unknown brand to come to India and capture the market the way it did, Agarwal says it is the brand’s focus on customer centricity that helped it crack the code. The brand, shares Agarwal, has always prioritized customer preferences and expectations. “Our focus on the Indian market from the very beginning has helped us grow here. Our business strategy is to focus on releasing only one product every year. We also refrained from diversifying our brand into multiple channels in the beginning. Being present only on online channels helped us grow very efficiently. Our continued focus on engaging with the community and our product obsession is what has led us here today,” he shares.

Why OnePlus is focusing on offline expansion

For the first three years, the brand was only present online. It was also getting by with minimal marketing. The brand created a loyal following for itself through a referral program and a lot of excitement around the brand was built primarily through word-of-mouth. In the last few years, the brand has also invested on Digital. However, considering the limitation of digital channels, the brand is now looking at expanding its presence offline, to reach out to a newer set of consumers.

The brand already has opened 30 stores in top cities. “This year we’re looking our presence to about 100 stores in top 50 cities. We want our offline stores to be destinations where consumers discover our products and know more about the brand. This will also help us in creating awareness and build the consumer’s confidence and trust in us which will eventually translate into loyalty and commitment for the brand,” he explains. He also shares that the brand will cover all Tier I cities and look at some Tier II cities.

Why OnePlus continues to shy away from roping in an ad agency

So far, most of OnePlus’ campaigns have been executed in-house. Despite working with media agencies, the brand interestingly has never had an ad agency on retainer. When asked why, Agarwal says, “We have a team which is really creative and very passionate about the brand. We usually take our team’s feedback and more often than not, our team’s ideas are quite effective and appealing because they understand the brand better than most of the agencies and partners. We try to explore all opportunities and pick the best ideas.” He also adds that the brand is open to working with an agency in the future but it will also continue to explore ideas from the in-house team.

Evolution of OnePlus’ marketing strategy

The core of the brand’s marketing strategy is still word-of-mouth, says Agarwal. Initially, the phones could be bought through invites and later the brand moved to digital channels. In recent times, the brand has also started exploring traditional mediums and celebrity associations with an aim of reaching out to a larger audience.

“Our core focus remains on our existing community and that is where a majority of our media investments are going. Recently, we organized the OnePlus music festival to give something back to our OnePlus community. While it was a huge success, we are still figuring out if we want to make this an annual event,” he adds.

He further states that India is one of the most important markets for the company from a global perspective. “India is our most important market and comes first in terms of our brand strategy. We are probably one of the only brands that always launches its products simultaneously in India. We also prioritize India over other regions, even in terms of supply,” he says.

From an investment perspective, OnePlus has the biggest team in India outside of its headquarters. With a current strength of 400 members, the brand plans to scale up to a 1000 member team in the next three years. Agarwal shares that the brand will continue to focus on community-focused initiatives and its recently launched Red Cable Club is a step in that direction.