India accounts for one third of global business: Vikas Agarwal, OnePlus

GM of OnePlus India speaks about performance in 2018, expansion plans, entry in the US market, the evolution of its marketing strategy and the need to take full ownership of the customer experience

VikasAgarwal

Chinese smartphone maker OnePlus completed five years in India. On that occasion it partnered with sportscar and supercar maker McLaren luxury and launched the ‘OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition’ which is packed with intricate design and a powerful and versatile experience.

Vikas Agarwal, General Manager, OnePlus India is confident about this unique proposition. But more than product launch, Agarwal emphasises customer experience which automatically elevates brand experience amongst its users. In a chat with exchange4media he explains how OnePlus is working towards taking full ownership of customer experience. He also shares his insight on marketing trends of 2018 and how the year has been for the smartphone maker.

Excerpts

After Star Wars and Avenger why the association with Mclaren?

With Mclaren we see a huge overlap with our brand philosophy. Mclaren is known for innovation, speed and what they have done in the world of F1 have become iconic brands. Like Mclaren we are passionate about speed and performance. The limited edition which will appeal to a certain set of users. We do the allocation based on potential audience groups in different markets. We create unique propositions for different audience groups and try to interact with them in a meaningful way.

Plan for more stores?

We already have 10 operational stores. The 11th store willbe opened in Delhi. It is one of the biggest experience stores. We have two experience stores in Bangalore and Chennai. We are looking to open more stores in Hyderabad, Pune and Mumbai in the future.

How has 2018 been for OnePlus?

It has been the best year. For the first time, we became the number 1 brand in the premium category for last two quarters. We will continue in the third quarter as well. We have a 37 per cent share. One out of three customers is buying OnePlus One. This is with a largely online presence.

Globally, we have partnered with T-Mobile this year which has given us access to 5600 stores in the US market. This helps to create brand awareness as the US is the most competitive market and therefore, it’s not easy to break in. We are expecting the OnePlus brand to become a mainstream brand in the US market. India accounts for one third of global business.

Within India, Mumbai is the biggest market. Almost 60-65 per cent of sales come from top 7-8 cities. We want to saturate those markets where we are already present.

Any plans to move to tier-II and III cities from where the next wave of growth is said to come?

We don’t have meaningful penetration in those cities. We are a young brand with limited resources. Having said that, we have partnered with Reliance Digital as well through which we are present in 250 stores across India. Next year we will be present in all 600 stores. That will give us a much higher visibility. We are taking small steps to increase presence. We are still concentrating on the top markets.

How has your marketing strategy evolved especially now with celebrities like Amitabh Bachchan in your campaigns?

Marketing budget is limited. We are still conservative about how we utilise our market resources. Amitabh Bachchan is not the primary marketing strategy for us. Our ambassadors are always our users. We look at ways in giving voice to their opinion. That’s why we are big on social media. That’s where we amplify true sentiment of the market. Also we are trying to take full ownership of customer experience.

We have started internalising all customer service channels; moved our contact centres from Philippines to India and our service centres from outsourced partners to OnePlus. India is the contact centre for entire world. It’s all company-owned and operated. This is because it’s important to give full customer experience.

Today I have 70 per cent completion rate in an hour which is not possible in outsourced model. We have engagement activities like coffee and Ps4 to ensure customers have a good time. This is a routine operation in a way. But it also works like marketing. This creates a huge impact and word-of -mouth. We are focusing on how to delight customer we are past that stage where we just give service. We create positive experience.

Coming to marketing trends what really caught on in premium smartphone category in 2018?

One of the trends that have emerged explicitly is the content provision. It used to be a traditional-media heavy industry which has toned down this year. From information, it is moving to education-driven. Now brands try to educate users about their product, to be involved emotionally by integrating themselves with the content they believe in. They are creating brand identity.

They have become more focused on online channels where customer reviews play a key role. They are careful that they are meeting customer’s expectation. People have started leveraging digital media in innovative ways. Focus is more on engaging channels like Instagram and YouTube. In fact Instagram has become a mainstream channel. Brands use traditional media for sales driven promotions and launches. Hence media mix is changing.

How does it look in 2019?

This will further accelerate. It has just started. It has not gone mainstream yet. The overall mix is likely to shift to digital channels (where you can engage with users) in the near future. I am already seeing brands organise their own events that give fresh experience to the users. They are organising more community meet ups to understand users’ requirement better. The idea is to have two way communication.

Experience-driven marketing will definitely happen. We were the first to open an experience store in Bangalore. After us, three new showrooms have come from Oppo Vivo and Samsung. So we showed the way to the industry. Brands are adopting that approach.

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