India has been our biggest success: OnePlus GM Vikas Agarwal

26/09/2019, New Delhi: At the global technology brand OnePlus’ launch of their flagship device, OnePlus 7T. The same event also saw the launch of their first smart TV— the OnePlus TV, a device that aims to seamlessly connect mobile and home networks for the future of interconnectivity

26/09/2019, New Delhi: At the global technology brand OnePlus’ launch of their flagship device, OnePlus 7T. The same event also saw the launch of their first smart TV— the OnePlus TV, a device that aims to seamlessly connect mobile and home networks for the future of interconnectivity   | Photo Credit: V V Krishnan


At its keynote last Thursday, OnePlus declared India as a priority market. Vikas Agarwal, GM of OnePlus India on the hows and whys

At the bright-red illuminated interiors of Indira Gandhi Arena (stadium) in Delhi, OnePlus made it amply clear at their September 26 keynote that they’ve zeroed in on their target demographic and what they really want: entertainment and gaming.

Zake Zhang, product manager of the smartphone brand, shared worldwide stats of 2,000 vlogs on YouTube every hour, and 400,000,000 watching online video every month. He said OnePlus has made its cameras incredibly stable and easy to use on-the-go. The team also announced that the 90Hz fluid display — which makes their phones “silly fast” as someone recently put it — returns to the OnePlus 7T, making the company’s inclination towards gaming even more obvious and natural.

When co-founder Carl Pei closed the keynote, he told the audience — who’d paid a pretty penny to be there that night — that what they paid will be compensated on tickets to their Katy Perry and Dua Lipa concert in Mumbai this November. Loud cheers went up at all these junctures.

For a lot of premium smartphone users, the OnePlus 7T’s features might not have seemed as revolutionary as they were made to sound that night. Nor would the OnePlus TV and remote have impressed them. But making entertainment-friendly features available at just ₹39,999, (the phone) and starting ₹69,900 (the TV) spoke volumes of OnePlus’ commitment to those in their late-teens till anyone in their early 40s.

In an interview ahead of the launch, Vikas Agarwal, general manager of OnePlus India, spoke at length about doing a major launch in India, their sustained focus on this demographic, and the company’s bigger plans with the launch of the OnePlus TV.

Edited excerpts:

Tell us about your choice to do a global launch out of India.

While over 70% of our business comes from global regions, India has been our biggest success. And the launch is our big commitment to the Indian market. The OnePlus TV too is primarily designed and produced for the Indian market. We have timed to launch it before the festival season [in the country], so the latest product is in the market, instead of people having to buy from other inventory clearance sales. As for smartphones, today, OnePlus has a 43% share in the premium segment [devices of ₹30,000+]. This is more than the combined share of the next two brands — Apple and Samsung — in India. And this has been just from online presence. But offline, have less than 10% share. [While] we already have 14 stores live, by the end of this year we’re looking at 35 stores, and by the end of next year, 100 stores across top 50 cities. Creating an offline touchpoint has become more relevant because we have TV too, now. If it works here, we take it globally.

File photo of Vikas Agarwal, General Manager, OnePlus India

File photo of Vikas Agarwal, General Manager, OnePlus India   | Photo Credit: Bijoy Ghosh

India has been our pilot market for a lot of initiatives in the past too: our global customer service operations are centred in India; we have our biggest global R&D centre — just launched in Hyderabad last month — and we’ve further committed ₹1,000 crores for developing this facility. So far, not many brands have focussed their R&D efforts in India. One Plus has also been manufacturing all its devices in India since 2015. This year, we are also looking at exporting from here.

Can you talk about your transition from the invite-only OnePlus One model that you launched with?

We’ve always had challenges in managing our inventory. With every launch, our products have always sold out. We’ve been conservative, and demand has outgrown the supply we were able to build. Today, we are relatively better, but still have lots to learn. As a company, we are not used to this growth. In the first year, we sold a million units globally. And now, we sell a million units in India itself. We have reached a very different scale. In the smartphone industry, most brands die because of inventory, not because of lack of inventory. That’s something we are conscious of, and never want to take excessive risk that can question our survival.

While a lot of premium smartphones are conceptualised elsewhere, they are all “assembled in China”. What are OnePlus’ advantages in being headquartered in Shenzhen?

Shenzhen is really the hardware hub of China. It is a lot easier for me to experiment with fifty designs there than anywhere else, and get a prototype in the shortest possible time. That helps us optimise in iterations, adding value to our design capabilities.

You recently partnered with WWF to plant one tree for each tweet populated with #OxygenOS. Can you talk about what other efforts you’re taking to be green — especially with regard to electronic waste?

First, at OnePlus, we look at a device usability of three to four years. Even today, a lot of the devices we sold in 2015 are still active — perhaps passed on to others in the family, or resold. We keep track of all these active devices. Therefore, fundamentally, there is much less e-waste for our devices, compared to the industry. We also have our own network of 65 exclusive stores, which have a recycle programme. And now, our new buyback programme will help us reduce e-waste and create loyalty around us.

In what direction are you heading with the launch of your television?

Our TV’s future is going to be as a ‘smart hub’. The way we see it is you will need a master device to manage all of your smart devices. The smart TV is possibly the best positioned device for this, because it has a display, it is right in the centre of your house, and you can interact with the TV in multiple ways. We are looking at the smart-home as the broader, key theme, and at the centre of that will be the smart TV.

Seems like you’re heading in the direction of a strong ecosystem of your products, much like Apple and Google?

In the long term, there will be fewer dominant consumer behaviours, and brands will converge to [cater to] those. We are looking at a smart home OnePlus ecosystem of devices, but focussing on lifestyle and entertainment as key.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 12:30:50 PM |

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