With just one smartphone in its kitty, OnePlus has taken the smartphone world by storm. When unveiled last year, the One was loaded with specifications that were on par with the industry's flagship smartphones. And its 'invite-only' model to buy the phone resulted in people asking for invites everywhere, including on social media platforms.
Vikas Agarwal, General Manager-India, OnePlus in conversation with Nidhi Singal talks about the company's journey in India till date.
Q- What took you so long to launch OnePlus One in India?
A- The expansion in India actually happened far earlier than we thought it would, because of the Indian users who were extremely vocal on our forum. They found ways to get the phone to India before we were able to officially ship them, ranking India sixth in terms of traffic to our site. So, we did everything we could to officially launch in December 2014. Luckily, we found a partner in Amazon.in, which understood our vision and put in a great deal of effort to allow us to launch here so quickly, understanding our need to continue using the invite system.
India is a key focus market for OnePlus. We are committed to long-term growth in India and are investing significant resources into the country. India is the first country where we are building a local team outside our headquarters to serve our customers better. In addition, we have also relocated some of our key senior personnel to India to connect closely with our fans and learn more about the local market.
Q- What is India's contribution to your global sales number?
A- Since our launch, we have witnessed a phenomenal response. India contributed seven per cent of our last year's overall sale within one month of operations, without any significant marketing or promotion activities. Currently, India accounts for about 20 per cent of our global sales, ranking it in the top three markets and is growing faster than any other country.
Q- Being a new brand, how did you manage to win the trust of the first time buyers?
A- We believe our fans connect with our ideology of 'Never Settle', and believe in our vision of creating products that deliver the best user experience. We rely on word-of-mouth publicity; and our invite system encourages fans to share with friends and family. We love to personally connect and engage with our users through local community groups on Facebook, the OnePlus Forums, and WhatsApp. Slowly but surely, we are getting people to realise and relate with our vision of building a socially engaged and user-first technology company.
Q- With Xiaomi, YU and Gionee getting aggressive, how do you plan to take on the competition?
A- There are certainly comparisons that can be drawn, but we are not yet at a stage where we worry about the competition. We believe that our products outclass most others in the category in terms of build quality, performance and design. We are our own biggest competition right now. We are going to continue focusing on our top priorities: our product and our user.
Q- OnePlus only allowed consumers with an invite to buy the smartphone. After hosting open sales, you have exited the 'invite-only' model. Why so?
A- As a young start-up with a risky business model, controlling inventory is very important. We initially implemented the invite system to ensure that we know how many phones we are shipping and also to let users know that if they have an invite, there is a phone waiting in our warehouse to be shipped.
While we have an active and supportive fan base, a lot of people who are interested in the One have told us that it is just too difficult to buy our smartphone. We believe that great things should be shared. Therefore, over the past few months, we've been exploring new ways of making the OnePlus One easier to purchase, globally. The feedback from our fans significantly altered our learning trajectory, resulting in an evolution from invites to pre-orders to 'Open Sales'.
Most recently, we announced open sales for everyone, every day of the week, to celebrate the anniversary of the OnePlus One. By rigorously testing and improving our logistical structure over the last one year, we are now far more confident that our processes have matured enough for us to handle the increased production and after-sales support that comes along with opening up sales. It's what we've been working towards, and now we're ready.
Q- Do you plan to open an R&D centre in India?
A- We're exploring the idea of building an R&D centre in India to take advantage of the local talent and burgeoning tech ecosystem, and also better meet the demands of local users. However, right now we are concentrating on establishing our business and building the OnePlus community.
Q- How significantly different is the Oxygen OS from the existing Cyanogen?
A- Oxygen OS is quite close to the pure Android experience. Like its name implies, it is light, and focuses on the most essential features that are subtle and meaningful. The OS is still in its early stage, but it is an important step in building the future of OnePlus. Like with all our products, we want to build it with the community and are looking to hearing users' feedback.
Q- When do you plan to launch your next flagship smartphone and how long will it take to come to India after your global announcement?
A- Our next flagship OnePlus 2 is scheduled to be launched in the third quarter of 2015/16.Considering that India is one of our most important global markets, our Indian users will not have to wait a lot for the OnePlus 2. India will be one of the first markets to see its launch.