Boycott China call spoils Oppo’s biggest product launch in India

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Updated: Jun 18, 2020 3:57 PM

Oppo was forced to cancel -- or rather, modify -- its biggest product launch in India in the wake of the ongoing calls across the country to boycott China (and Chinese products).

Oppo is a key smartphone player in India.

The last few weeks have been difficult for Oppo in India. The company has been trying to regain its lost ground, in manufacturing, at its Greater Noida facility (after production was halted) after nine employees tested positive for coronavirus. The same facility also manufactures OnePlus phones, which is why OnePlus 8 Pro and OnePlus 8 have seen such staggered supplies. But, things have been improving gradually, despite all the challenges. One can assume business had started as usual, because Oppo had a big-ticket launch event coming. For a company of the scale of Oppo, it was the sort of event that would show off its might and magic, and how quickly it could bounce back from a calamity.

Only, things turned from bad to worse, ahead of D-day. Oppo was supposed to launch its high-end premium Find X2 series in India on Wednesday. Saying that the hype around the Oppo Find X2 series was huge would be an understatement. Not that the Find X2 series needed that sort of hype (Find X2 Pro and Find X2 are very capable phones in their own right) but for some context, Oppo had signed up English actor Eddie Redmayne and American YouTuber Marques Brownlee aka MKBHD to promote the phones just ahead of their India launch.

India is a key market for Oppo. And Oppo is a key smartphone player in India. It works both ways. Oppo is currently the fourth largest smartphone brand in India, ahead of Samsung. What I am trying to say is that Oppo could have gone easy on the hype-train, and yet, it would have made people sit up and take notice. Make its products do the talking, if you may. But the hype was also necessary because it’s not every day that Oppo launches a phone worth 60k+ in India so I guess there was a method to all the madness. Besides, Oppo is known for its star-studded product events anyway, so can’t say it was all very surprising.

Now that we’ve established how big the Find X2 series India launch was for Oppo, let’s come back to the part where things did not actually turn out the way the company had imagined. As opposed to its newly spun-off brand Realme, that recently claimed to be an Indian startup, Oppo is a Chinese brand through and through even though the company has sizable R&D and manufacturing in India.

Oppo was forced to cancel — or rather, modify — its biggest product launch in India in the wake of the ongoing calls across the country to boycott China (and Chinese products), that have only grown in strength after 20 Indian soldiers were killed and several others grievously injured in a face-off with the Chinese troops in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley on Tuesday. The Government of India on Wednesday directed state-run telecom operators BSNL and MTNL to refrain from buying Chinese equipment, and unless a solution is worked out soon between the two countries, things are only expected to escalate further.

Now Oppo hasn’t gone on record to say why the Find X2 series India launch went from going live stream to a pre-recorded footage. It hasn’t also confirmed why it did not really launch its biggest product of the year, Find X2 Pro, in India as planned despite sending out units to the media for review. Only the regular Find X2 pricing was revealed on Wednesday, while the real star of the show was curiously missing in all this. Oppo sent out a press release later, but again, without any information why the Find X2 Pro did not officially launch in the country on June 17 despite all the hype.

All of this happened last minute, and the reason why I say this, is because Indian media (including myself) was caught totally off guard by the new development. Many publications had readied their reviews and interestingly decided to drop them with speculative prices only to realize later that the Find X2 Pro didn’t really arrive in India so to say. A classic foot in mouth situation, in my humble opinion, but just goes to show how quickly things can change. It would have been nice if Oppo had informed the media in advance, but maybe even Oppo wasn’t quick enough to realize what would transpire in the next few hours leading into the launch event. An official comment would be too much to ask at this point of time, considering the sensitivity of the matter, but we will update this piece as and when we will have more clarity.

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