India will be OnePlus’ second headquarters in 5 years, says CEO

URVASHI VALECHA THOMAS K THOMAS Mumbai | Updated on January 12, 2018

PETE LAU, founder and Chief Executive Officer, OnePlus

Pete Lau says development in India exceeded the company’s expectations

Chinese smartphone-makers have captured nearly 50 per cent market share in India through aggressive marketing and by bringing in phones with high specifications at lower price points. While brands such as Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo have been leading this trend at the mass market level, OnePlus is trying to disrupt the high-end segment.

BusinessLine spoke with Pete Lau, founder and Chief Executive Officer of OnePlus, on the sidelines of the launch of OnePlus5 (the firm’s new flagship phone), to know how the company plans to grow in the Indian market. Edited excerpts:

What’s been the experience so far? Has India preformed up to your expectations?

The development in India has sort of exceeded our expectations. India is one of the most important regions for us.

The word of mouth and influence in India have all exceeded our expectations. More than 60 per cent of our user group are post-graduates. So in India, our strategy is to send in the best of products and the best of services.

In an interview in 2016, you had said that you hoped India would be the largest market for OnePlus in 2017. Has that happened yet?

In terms of brand influence, as of now, we think India is one of the best; it is the first in all markets. In terms of market share, we have some way to go; but we have had a huge growth rate. In 2017, our market share and also our market value is going to increase.

How are you going to address the issue of availability of phones to meet the demand?

We now have 2-3 times the stock than the previous products. Before the launch of OnePlus5 in China, we had 600,000 registrations to purchase the phone, and as of now, it has reached 1 million registrations.

Can India match China in terms of becoming a manufacturing hub?

Right now, manufacturing in India is pretty much similar to China back in its early stage. I foresee the trend that India’s manufacturing will pick up very soon, and it’s going to match up with China. For OnePlus, we started some local manufacturing and the quality of local production meets our expectations. It’s just that the efficiency right now is not as good as China. But with time, the efficiency can also be better.

Should the Indian government be doing more to incentivise manufacturing? Brands such as Apple have sought certain relaxations.

Right now, the Indian government has already given a lot of incentives to the manufacturing industry. We don’t have more demands. Our only request is that the government be fair to all the players.

Do you have a strategy to go beyond devices into things such as automated cars?

Our company strategy is to have only one focus; our focus will be on making the best Android flagship phones.

What are the big challenges?

The challenge here is that we need to be patient. Right now, the premium market in India is relatively small. We are willing to wait for 1-5 years.

Will you continue with the strategy of selling online?

In the short run, we are going to focus on the online market; but in the future, say for example 1-2 years later, people actually won’t care about online or offline. By that time, maybe, we will do whatever we need to do.

What excites you in the world of technology?

Artificial intelligence will be an important part in the future development of smartphones.

But right now, we have not thought about how we are going to put AI in our phones. First, we need to know what customers’ requirements are and then talk about technologies.

We cannot come up with new technologies and then just force customers to accept that.

Where do you see OnePlus in India a few years from now?

Five years from now, India for OnePlus will be like the second headquarters because there are a lot of similarities between India and China.

Are there any key learnings you’ve picked up from this market?

Instead of learnings, the biggest experience I’ve had in India is that the community is very active compared with China and the world.

How has this helped you in terms of developing products?

The community gives us a lot of feedback, a lot of suggestions on the product, service and company strategy; we take a look at those suggestions and take some very proactive steps. We are building the brand with our customers.

What worries you?

I’m always afraid that our team will not be patient enough. Even this morning, I just got all our team back and said OnePlus5 is doing very well and that the sales are very good.

I just wanted my team to know that we are still walking on a very thin ice and we cannot be over proud of this kind of temporary achievement.

The more smooth the way, the more I get worried.

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Published on June 22, 2017
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