OnePlus 5T, the new flagship smartphone from the start-up brand, will go on sale from tomorrow on Amazon India. As per IDC, OnePlus has also emerged as the leading premium smartphone brand in the Indian market, ahead of players like Samsung and Apple in the online segment. Indianexpress.com spoke to OnePlus India’s General Manager Vikas Aggarwal around the company’s recent success in India, the upcoming OnePlus 5T launch and its future plans. Here are edited excerpts from the interaction.
On what happens to OnePlus 5 with OnePlus 5T launch. Why did the company launch a new upgrade so soon with a bigger display?
If you look at our previous phone, the OnePlus 3T the last batch was sold out during Diwali and now the product will be discontinued. The same goes for the OnePlus 5, which will also be sold out in sometime, and we’ll have only one product OnePlus 5T in the market. As a brand we want to make sure there is one device which is the latest, and the previous devices are usually sold out once the new product launches.
So brands do end up launching a variant of the new device in coming months. This (OnePlus 5T) should be seen as another variant. We would say the changes are not big enough to classify OnePlus 5T as a new product launch and the new generation launch happens once a year for us. With OnePlus 5T, we now we have the option of offering a better display and a device which is superior in terms of overall experience and some specifications. The bigger display will give a better reading display, multimedia experience.
Yes, some fans and users will be disappointed. See ideally we would like to make everyone happy, but that’s not possible. Six months back OnePlus 5 was the best possible device in the market. Since then many phones have come which are offering similar, if not better specifications. So as a company which focuses on premium segment, we need to make sure our phones compete with the current available flagships in the market. The OnePlus 5T will do just that, and given this is an extension of the current product line, there was no need for us to raise the price.
On OnePlus’ position in Indian market and how it is performing in the terms of numbers
Two reports have from Counterpoint and IDC. Both reports are giving a similar figure and in the online market, two-thirds of this is with OnePlus in the premium segment (above $400 price range according to IDC). In the overall premium market, it is one-third, out of the top the three brands. (This includes Apple and Samsung.)
Together the top three brands are controlling 98 per cent of the premium market, so that kind of shows how small the entire market is. OnePlus being just a three-year-old brand and appearing in top three is a big achievement. In the last quarter, OnePlus 5 was the top-selling device with 25 per cent share, according to IDC.
On whether OnePlus will ramp up offline presence in the Indian market
We are concentrating majorly on the online segment, and this strategy is working well for us. The premium customers have access to online and it is not like one is getting access to more customers in the offline segment. In our case, offline is more from a consumer experience perspective, where they can try and experience the device. We also have a partnership with Croma, where users can explore devices and also buy if they want to do this. Then we have our own stores in Bengaluru and Delhi where customers can experience, buy the device.
On the future of the premium smartphone segment in India (which is above $400)
Historically, I think this market has been the most stagnant and this market has never grown in India. The reason was that a lot of users were on feature phones and they were upgrading to budget smartphones. So far, the top-end market remained stagnated and people who can afford these were limited in numbers, say afford a Rs 60,000-Rs 70,000 device.
But what we are seeing now is that people who have been using smartphones for sometime, the mid-range audience, they will now upgrade to the more premium smartphones. They were using devices in the Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 range, in future they will look at Rs 20,000 to Rs 35,000 and perhaps even a Rs 40,000-plus device. That is something we have also seen in China. Nearly five to ten years back the ASP of a device was the same as it is right now in India, but in the last few years, it has doubled to more than that.
In India, the ASP has started growing, but it has not come to that level. In other markets, the premium segment tends to dominate. Within a decade, India will also get to that level as well. That’s the market we are targeting, and we are here to stay and focus on this. Right now we may have a 33 per cent share of the premium smartphone market, but that’s a very small share of the overall market.
We are not looking to launch a mid-range device just to expand the market share, but concentrating on the premium end market. If you look at IDC data, it (premium segment market) is 4-5 per cent of the overall market and there are roughly maybe 5- 6 million units being shipped in this price range for the entire year.
On fighting the perception about being a Chinese brand in India
One thing about the idea of “Chinese” brand is that in India people tend to have this perception that the product is inferior, and not of a global brand quality. This is a historical perception that people have had for sometime. In contrast, global brands were always seen as the global standard.
Of course, there’s the recent disputes that happened with China and we have seen the nationalism side as well. But from OnePlus’ perspective we see ourselves as a global brand. Our major markets are US and Europe. We have a team that is very global and if you see the users in India, majority perhaps do not even know that company is headquartered in China.
In a way, in India, we never faced the Chinese perception challenge. That’s a challenge more for the entry level brands where quality is a concern. They are operating in a lower price segment while we are in a higher price segment where quality is the only thing we are competing on and this something that will never be compromised. When quality is assured, nobody will worry about whether you are Chinese or global.