SHENZHEN: OnePlus, the upstart Chinese smartphone manufacturer, has charmed techies and consumers alike with its high-tech, reasonably priced phones. In India, its strategy is winning where others are failing, revealing important lessons.

OnePlus burst onto the smartphone scene with its first device, the OnePlus One, in April 2014. Its aim, CEO Pete Lau said at the time, was to be the “Muji of the tech industry”, referring to the Japanese lifestyle brand’s simple products and high build quality.

The company expanded quickly, entering the Indian market in December 2014, ahead of its launch into Europe. Building a robust strategy in the world’s largest democracy at a time of economic growth continues to be key to the company’s success.

The company now controls 40% of India’s premium smartphone market – defined as devices costing more than 30,000 rupees ($435). With huge competition from brands foreign and local, the country is one of the most fiercely competitive smartphone markets in the world. Of OnePlus’ $1.4 billion of revenue last year, as much as a third came from India.

It appears that, unlike Apple, OnePlus’s commitment to its product is creating aspiration. “We have a standard product across the globe, we don’t do a sub-$100 category for India. Lower-tier products require compromises that we are unwilling to make”, said Lau in an interview with Bloomberg.

“The premium smartphone segment may be small, but buying power among young Indians is surging and will create a huge opportunity by 2020,” he added.

The company lags behind companies such as Samsung, Vivo, and Oppo in the non-premium market. “We try not to be overly distracted by what’s going on in the market or our competition,” Lau said.

Crucially, OnePlus’s strategy in India involves advertising on some of the country’s biggest stages. The firm sponsors cricket matches for high visibility. Its strategy for reaching younger consumers is also nuanced: instead of advertising near the point of purchase, the company uses student ambassadors to promote its phones and related products.

“OnePlus’s strategy of packing the best specs into their phones and offering the most competitive price seems to have helped,” Rushabh Doshi, a research manager at Canalys, told Bloomberg. “Its pricing strategy has appealed to the cost-conscious and flagship-aspiring consumers in India who want to own the ‘best’ smartphone in the market but at a competitive cost.”

In future, the company wants to increase its physical availability with an expanded retail presence. OnePlus currently operates just one store in Bangalore. On Sunday, the company announced that it would be moving its services hub to India, a move widely seen as the groundwork for the Indian R&D facility that Lau wants to build.

Sourced from Bloomberg, Engadget, Hindustan Times; additional content by WARC staff