Chinese smartphone manufacturer OnePlus has, for the first time, surpassed Samsung and Apple to become the fast-growing premium (price of over ₹30,000) smartphone brand in India, according to Counter Point, a Hong-Kong-based research firm.

OnePlus was also the fastest-growing brand in the premium segment while shipments for Apple and Samsung declined year-on-year. It captured 40 per cent of the market driven by record shipments of its OnePlus 6.

Samsung captured 34 per cent share of the premium segment. Its shipments declined 25 per cent year-on-year due to drop in shipments of S9 as compared to S8 last year. However, promotions related to S9 remain strong which helped to push sales.

Apple’s share in the premium segment reached its lowest ever 14 per cent due to decline in shipments for iPhone 8 and X series. Additionally, the increase in import duty and absence of local manufacturing impacted its pricing strategy in India. Apple is also looking to streamline its channel structure in India, the report said.

OnePlus surpassing Samsung and Apple was due to strong sales of its flagship OnePlus 6, which was launched during the quarter. India remains an important market for OnePlus, contributing to almost a third of its global revenue. Each new model launched by OnePlus sees good sales thanks to word of mouth reference from existing customers and also because the company effectively leverages social media, the report said. The premium smartphone segment grew 19 per cent annually and 10 per cent sequentially during the second quarter ended June. Samsung captured over a third of the total premium smartphone market during the quarter with promotions around its flagship S9 series remaining strong, the report said without giving numbers.

Offline presence

Despite being a digital-first brand, increasing its offline footprint across India is one of the key focus areas for OnePlus for this year, said Vikas Agarwal, General Manager, OnePlus India, which launched its mobile phones in India four years ago.

OnePlus is increasing its points of sale by launching its offline and exclusive stores across key cities.

More offline touch-points also mean enabling community members with more platforms to engage with the brand and allow for experiencing the product before buying. These experience zones are designed to introduce OnePlus products to potential new users, strengthen user trust and further complement our online business, Agarwal told Business Line .

January 2017 marked the launch of the first-ever OnePlus experience store in Bengaluru. The success of this store format was evident from the spike that OnePlus saw in online sales in the region. “We have recently launched offline stores in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata as part of our offline expansion programme,” he said.

“Our business model is such that we are present largely online on Amazon, giving us a better structure over our competitors. After five years, I expect online to continue to be a dominant channel. We will always look out for offline opportunities but not in the most aggressive way. Our sales plan will be based on online, and offline will act as a top-up,” he said.

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