Oppo Electronics entered India in early 2014 with its N1 smartphone featuring a swivel camera. The brand was quick to grab eyeballs with unique design of its handsets, something very few brands focused on back then, during the heavy price versus spec battle. But Oppo somehow missed on converting this early attention on design into actual sales, at least in India.
This could be mainly attributed to premium prices of its handsets and the Indian consumers’ reluctance to buy Chinese brands at such prices, a year back. To justify the prices of Oppo phones, brand executive director Katrina Li said, “Just because Oppo is a Chinese player, doesn’t mean we are going to sell cheap smartphones. We will never shift our focus from providing quality products to our customers. With the kind of investments we have already made in ensuring quality, we simply cannot afford to venture into cheap smartphone competition.”
Oppo claims to be at the number two position in the Chinese smartphone market, behind Huawei and above Samsung. In India, where every smartphone brand have their respective strongholds, for Oppo, it is mainly Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
While other Chinese smartphone brands are looking at quick success through exclusive e-commerce partnerships with Flipkart, Snapdeal or Amazon.in, Oppo seems least interested. “We want to expand our footprints across India and want our presence to be felt across the country. We are not looking at online at all. Our target is increasing our offline presence in India,” said Li.
In a recent visit to Oppo’s factory at Shenzhen, brand director Li in conversation with Indian journalists shared more insights on Oppo’s India plans.
Q) It has been a while for Oppo In India, yet the brand is struggling to grab the mindshare of Indian consumers. Why do you think so? [Oppo currently falls in the less than 1 per cent market share category.]
A) While we are number two in China, we are way behind in India. This is mainly because the mindset of Indian consumers are different and we took time to gauge it. Indian consumers mostly prioritise ‘value for money’ than anything else. We simply did not customise our products for India.
Q) While you are not keen on sharing sales figures, can you throw some light on how Oppo performed in India this year?
A) With the launch of R7 series, we gained a lot of traction in the market. Our sales have actually doubled compared to last year. The R7 Lite is the most popular Oppo smartphone in India. We are also looking at getting the right mix in our product portfolio. In 2016, we are eyeing 300 per cent growth. We seriously consider the Indian market and are here to stay and grow. Recently, we have already announced our plans to partner with Foxconn to manufacture smartphones locally.
Q) How exactly are you planning to achieve this 300 per cent growth in 2016?
A) Our plan is simple. Get the right product portfolio to India and spread more awareness . We have already partnered with ICC globally for four years and are looking at getting more brand ambassadors on board. Another important agenda is to increase the availability of Oppo phones in India. We currently have 8000 point of sales, which we will increase in 2016. Also, we will open exclusive stores.
Q) Indian consumers are just about to board the 4G bandwagon. Any plans to partner with telcos for 4G smartphones?
A) It is too early for us. We are exploring this option too. However, there are no official partnerships yet. We are at basic level talks with Airtel as of now.
Q) Most Chinese brands aim at diversifying their offerings. So, do you have any plans like may be launching a wearable in India or something?
A) We are a very focused company. We will only look at smartphones for now.
[Note that Oppo had already launched a smartband called O-Band in China. The product, however, is discontinued.]
Disclaimer: The writer was in Shenzhen on the invite of Oppo India.