4 Reasons why OnePlus is consistently winning in the Indian Premium Segment

OnePlus 6T Thunder Purple

The numbers are in and with a market share of 37%  (7% more than the last quarter), OnePlus has again beaten Apple and Samsung to the Top in the Premium Smartphone segment in India. Let us try and dig deeper into what makes OnePlus  what it is in India. Is it just their device or is there more to it? Here is what I think

OnePlus started off as an upstart that wanted to disrupt the whole smartphone game with their cutting edge devices combined with aggressive pricing. They also began with the now hated invite system. The OnePlus One was a trendsetter that brought a really premium experience to the masses. The made their mark with it. From then to now, the OnePlus brand has moved from strength to strength and is standing today at a point where challenging them is a huge challenge for even the incumbent big brands. In my mind, there are four key reasons for this. Let us now see what the reasons are.

OnePlus 6T Thunder Purple Rear View

Best-In-Class Performance

Right from the OnePlus One, every OnePlus device, barring the OnePlus Two, which eventually went through a series of fixes, has been a solid performer and none of their devices have even had slightest issues when it comes to clean and blazing hast performance. You may say that other brands also have solid performers, but the key difference between the OnePlus flagships and them is the fact that the OnePlus phones perform the same from day one and continue to do that every day. There are people who still have the OnePlus One and swear by it’s performance. I have personally used every OnePlus flagship till date and know for a fact that there is absolutely no sign of lag or loss of speed in any of them. There are very few brands who have achieved this. And in the Indian market, OnePlus is the only brand in my opinion that has done this.

OnePlus 6T Mirror Black

Aspirational Value

OnePlus in India has become a brand that people aspire to buy and flaunt. They have built this place on the back of sustained word of mouth from their community and a solid buzz that their PR machinery has sustained.

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 Thunder Purple OnePlus 6T 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”

The summary of the above is that every age group has a different reason but all of them have a valid reason to aspire to own a OnePlus device. This is a great thing for any brand.

OnePlus 6 Red Edition Rear View

Consumer Empathy

To put it in the words of Carl Pei, Co-Founder, OnePlus “OnePlus is very clear as a company that we don’t want to do anything that is consumer-hostile just because our competition is doing it or talking about it. It may be something that is perceived as cutting costs but in the end, our devices will deliver a value proposition that is unlike any other brand in the market and we will do it consistently” And having studied and very closely observed them over the years, I can say that the institutionalized priority of not doing something just for the sake of it has stood them in very good stead. Take the OnePlus 6 for example. The device is their biggest success till date and when you look at the spec sheet for the phone you will see that things like an IP certification for water resistance and wireless charging have been carefully left out from it. While there are those who say this is a problem, the larger number of people who swear by the  value and performance that OnePlus devices deliver will know that adding these would have added to the cost of the device and simply not made much practical sense in the long run either. The end result of this thinking pattern has been the fact that OnePlus devices have been consistently hailed as the best performing Android phones whenever they were launched. People know that they get exactly what they expect from OnePlus

Pete Lau, Founder & CEO, OnePlus interacting with fans in Delhi
Pete Lau, Founder & CEO, OnePlus interacting with fans in Delhi

Listening as a process

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 they 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. The same is true for the OP5, OP5T , OP6 and now the OP6T.

This policy of learning as a corporate function is firmly based on listening to what the users and community are saying. The strength in this comes from the fact that the listening is done with the intent to improve and the proof of that is there for everyone to see. OnePlus in the mind of the Indian buyer is a brand that listens and acts upon what it being said.

In my books, these are the four reasons why OnePlus is consistently topping the premium smartphone segment in India. What do you think?

About Shakthi

I am a Tech Blogger, Disability Activist, Keynote Speaker, Startup Mentor and Digital Branding Consultant. Also a McKinsey Executive Panel Member. Also known as @v_shakthi on twitter. Been around Tech for two decades now.

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