Overnight Phenomenon

How OnePlus succeeded with an unconventional marketing strategy

We are the top-selling premium phone this quarter,” declared an elated Vikas Agrawal, general manager, OnePlus India, in Q1 CY18. The general manager had reason enough to be upbeat. OnePlus has garnered 25% market share in the premium segment (handsets priced more than $400) according to Counterpoint Research. And unlike its Chinese counterparts Oppo and Vivo, OnePlus had done it without draining money on advertising.

Founded by Pete Lau and Carl Pei in Shenzhen, China in November 2013, India was not even on the company’s radar. The duo was looking for opportunities in Europe and the US. “We did not expect the kind of response that we got in India. We had developed a product for $300. In India, people were shy of buying anything above Rs.10,000,” says Agarwal. Yet, India has turned out to be the largest market for OnePlus; three years running. Buoyed by the stupendous response, the phone maker is now contemplating to open its second headquarters outside of China — in Bengaluru.

Community call 

Starting out, OnePlus decided it would sell its model ‘One’ online by invitation as the company had little idea about what the demand would be and didn’t have the bandwidth to experiment with volume. “We didn’t want to overproduce and be left with unwanted inventory. The system helped gauge demand with precision. We could adjust our production schedule accordingly,” Agarwal says.

Vikas Agarwal, general manager, OnePlus India

The move worked. At no point was OnePlus left with excess inventory that it had to clear at a discounted price later. The invite had another benefit that wasn’t bargained for. It helped build exclusivity and an aspirational value around the product. Agarwal says that it accomplished an even greater feat — it helped create a loyal community, which became an advocate of the brand. “The ‘plus’ in our name refers to sharing. Invites helped execute this philosophy. If you bought a model, you could share invites with friends or fam


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