As a reporter, I travel a lot and have known China and Silicon Valley all my life. However, there’s one place that has always intrigued me—India. Following OnePlus’ launch event in Bangalore, India, I finally got a chance to visit this mysterious land of excitement.
Launch Event at Bangalore
The launch event at Bangalore began around 8:30 p.m. on May 14 simultaneously with two other events in New York and London. Just as I was about to hit the road, the hotel waiter asked where I was headed to and offered to hail a cab for me. “Are you going to the OnePlus Launch Event?” he asked me. I nodded my head and he took out his phone with genuine excitement and told me he’s been using a OnePlus 3 for almost two years.
When I got to the venue, there was already a huge line up as expected. The atmosphere was filled with excited conversations, and Indian songs I did not understand. Media and reporters were allowed access first, so I naturally got in earlier and went for the first row. I managed to snatch a seat between two professional photographers, with CNBC reporters behind me. After striking up a conversation with them, I found out that they either used a Samsung or a OnePlus phone. An Indian reporter told me that in India, OnePlus is the new rising star that has overtaken the place of Samsung.
When the launch finally kicked off, the first person to take the stage was Carl Pei, the company’s 30-year-old co-founder. Dressed in a blue hoodie, he had a typical Silicon Valley air around him.
“Bengaluru was where the OnePlus story first began,” said Pei. His words triggered a thundering applause from the crowd.
“When we first launched the OnePlus One globally, we didn’t plan to launch it in India. But there was tonnes of interest from here. So, we decided to come down and see it for ourselves,” he said.
He then went on to recount the story of how him and his colleagues held a small meetup for OnePlus’ fans at Matteo Cafe close to Brigade Road back in September 2014. But to their surprise, a massive crowd turned up. “Most people who showed up already had the phone. And it was just unbelievable,” he said, adding that the support and enthusiasm later became pivotal to OnePlus’ decision to hold a launch in India.
“Ever since then, our Bengaluru OnePlus community has been asking for a phone launch here and here we are! And this is our biggest launch event ever,” Pei announced with excitement.
The climax of the event came when the prices were revealed.
“The OnePus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro. OnePlus 7 Pro is priced at Rs 48,999 (6 GB RAM +128 GB storage), Rs 52,999 (8 GB RAM + 256 GB storage) and Rs 57,999 (12 GB RAM + 256 GB), while the OnePlus 7 is priced at Rs 32,999 for the 6 GB RAM and 128 GB storage version.”
It may not be the cheapest price tag, but definitely one that’s well worth it.
OnePlus Experience Store
The next day I attended OnePlus’ pop-up event at its largest experience store in Bangalore. It was located at Brigade road, one of the busiest commercial streets in Bangalore, and famous for its high concentration of technology stores. Just across the street is a vivo store and an OPPO store nearby. Also located several blocks down the street is the Samsung Opera House, the Korean company’s largest experience store in the world.
The store opens at 7 in the evening. When I arrived there at 4 in the afternoon, however, huge lines of fans were already waiting outside anxiously. When asked about the brands of their smartphones, their answers fell in unison to OnePlus, whether it’s a OnePlus 5 or OnePlus 3. To my surprise, there was even a fan still using the OnePlus One! “I’ve been using it for four years now,” he said.
India’s Smartphone Market
According to statistics from analytic firm Counterpoint, against the backdrop of global smartphone shipment decline, total smartphone shipments in India reached 145 million in 2018, with a year-on-year increase of 10 percent.
During this past year, Chinese smartphone manufacturers continued to maintain high growths in the Indian market. According to Counterpoint, in 2018, Xiaomi beat Samsung with a 28 percent market share, achieving first place in the Indian market. OnePlus won the top spot in the Indian high-end mobile phone market.
Overseas market has always been a focus for OnePlus. Counterpoint’s data shows that China, India and Western Europe account for four-fifths of the company’s global sales. In India, OnePlus has surpassed Apple and Samsung for three consecutive quarters, accounting for 36 percent of market share.
The story and growth of OnePlus is unique, however with many experiences we can learn from.
For instance, in terms of channels, while the major strategy of online businesses remained unchanged, OnePlus is constantly making adjustments according to specific markets. In China, OnePlus also relies on the mature e-commerce and logistics system, but has stood out among the crowd as a domestic brand of online high-end smartphones. The U.S. has a rather mature system of product distribution through online and offline channels, as well as through operators. OnePlus seized its opportunity to expand its sales channels by establishing a cooperation with U.S. operator T-Mobile.
The Indian market is a whole other story. OnePlus chose to work exclusively with Amazon India to boost its online sales. It was approximately at the same time that OnePlus and Amazon entered the Indian market, which paved their ways for mutual enhancement in the future.
OnePlus’ media exposure is also massive. For example, I came across a striking OnePlus 7 ad at the airport in Bangalore. Also, when I opened the door of my hotel room in New Delhi, a stack of newspapers lay on the ground and a big OnePlus 7 commercial was slapped on the front page.
OnePlus also has a variety of strategies for its offline distribution, including pop-up stores and authorized outlets. It also cooperated with Indian home appliance giant Croma.
Pete Lau, CEO of OnePlus, mentioned in an interview recently that “India is currently our ‘granary’ and we have a good fan base here. India is a sound market with good foundation, and the population here is over 100 million. I believe that the future high-end market here has lots of room for development.”
At the end of my trip, I visited the Taj Mahal in the suburbs of Delhi. Just like what’s written in Rabindranath Tagore’s verse, the mausoleum is a teardrop on the cheek of time. I was deeply impressed by its everlasting charm and beauty.
I took a moment to ponder upon the era we’re living in. In an era when everything is interconnected by the Internet and smartphones, spacial distance is greatly reduced. Here we have a mobile phone company that integrates global resources, and held four launch events simultaneously in different cities to attract the attention of people from different cultures and backgrounds. It was simply fascinating to take in all of this.
Both China and India, with an abundant reserve in history, are striving in this new era with innovation and technological breakthroughs. What a time to be alive.