OnePlus is everywhere in India. When I say this, I am not talking about huge hoardings and TVC slots, yes, they are there, but the brand seems to have grown beyond all that in the recent years in India and has firmly seated itself in the prime spot in Indian minds. Let us try and take a good look at this today.
Recently, I was out travelling on business to multiple cities in India and had the chance to meet and speak to hundreds of people at a couple of events where I was a speaker. Most people in the audience knew that I am a techie by profession and have been following me on social media for a while. So there were a lot of interesting conversations that we had around tech when the event was done and there was networking happening.
One of the most mentioned topics across all conversations was OnePlus – the brand. To add some more context, I was meeting people across the social spectrum – young, middle-aged, older, students, professionals, diplomats and even ministers of state. So I found it very intriguing that OnePlus had managed to hold their mindshare across all these groups. The conversations started with people noticing that my primary device is the OnePlus 5T and went on in various directions from there. So I had an interesting idea, on the condition of anonymity, I asked everyone who spoke to me to tell me what they thought of OnePlus and why they valued the brand. The responses were very varied, but I am taking the liberty of sorting them in some meaningful groupings to help us understand better.
The Young and Active – “OnePlus adds a dimension of sophistication and credibility to our image”
The Working and Stable – “We can rely on OnePlus devices to perform under extreme stress when we have to multitask heavily and are on tight deadlines at odd hours”
The Mature and Experienced – “OnePlus represents the best that Android has to offer married to the best hardware and is extremely future-proof. A wise investment that runs long”
Let us try and understand this with the facts that we have on hand. The logical starting point to understand all this is certainly at the beginning of it all. When the OnePlus One came on the scene, it had the best hardware that one could think of running with Cyanogen that was arguably the most fluid version of Android at that time. The price at which this package came was a miniscule fraction of what other brands wanted for similar devices. This combination intrigued the Indian buyers so much that they did not mind jumping through the hoops of an invite system and the overheads of getting the phone shipped into India from overseas. There was a mad craze for the OPO and it wasn’t looking like dying at all.
Then the divorce happened with Cyanogen and personally I consider it more Cyanogen’s loss than anything else. Oxygen OS was born and around about the same time, the OP2 also took birth. This was a tad bit of a challenge for the brand as the UI and the device were more of a miss than a hit with the public. There was a long list of issues that people had with the OS and the phone. At this point, OnePlus did something that proved to be a pivot into the big league for them. They buckled down, owned up to the issues and setup a brilliant listening channel with the community and went to work on the issues. Iterations followed on Oxygen OS and it became one of the most appreciated flavors of Android around.
Then the OnePlus 3 happened and the brand never looked back from there. The OP3 was a resounding success and the did what most brands would never do, come out with a mid-cycle refresh with the OP3T and the users loved it. The numbers were good and the brand was singing all the way to the bank.
They then moved on to the OnePlus 5 that brought them into the dual camera group and did it right. There were two variants and both were well received. The OnePlus 5T was the T refresh that took them onto another great streak. They even went with special variants that were tied to the popular Star Wars movie franchise and came out with interesting color variants.
What they have also been consistently doing is gradually rising up the price ladder too and that has been justified, given the package that the phones bring. The buyers don’t mind that at all, I have been to many OnePlus pop up events and the lines and buzz are really impressive. I have seen hordes of youngsters throng the stores to buy OnePlus devices.
So what is the key to the current value that OnePlus commands in the Indian psyche? It has been the painstakingly built communication channel with the community. The devices do the talking for themselves. The idea that a brand listens to the grassroots level users and actually acts upon it is the key to the unwavering loyalty they command.
I spoke to foreign diplomats who travel a lot and they say that the fact that OnePlus phones are truly global and hence they not having to switch devices when travelling makes their life a lot easier. The young see it as an aspirational brand and want to be seen with OnePlus devices. The professionals swear by the stability and reliability that the OnePlus brand brings with it.
So, all in all, OnePlus seems to have all bases covered when it comes to holding mind share in the Indian psyche and to me it looks like the brand is poised to scale greater heights from here. Trains, planes and OnePlus – Indians seem to be loving all of these a lot. OnePlus seems to have moved from the “aspiring” to the “aspirational” and is firmly there!