There's only so much hardware innovation one can drive. Software is the future.
In a sea of commoditised hardware where every brand wants to throw everything but the kitchen sink at you, Oppo is taking the road less taken. The distinction from a hardware standpoint is already getting fairly meaningless, it believes. The narrative in the smartphone industry cannot be simply around speed and megapixel count anymore. Software is key. Which is why, it is investing “deeply” around how ColorOS — which is the operating system driving its phones — is being built, today and in the future.
“There’s only so much hardware innovation one can drive, and so for us, the focus really is on delivering an exceptional videography experience, and then ensuring that the upgrades that we make and the innovations that we build around our software, which is ColorOS, allows consumers to have an unparalleled experience,” Oppo India CMO, Damyant Singh Khanoria tells Financial Express Online.
Khanoria is taking us through the nitty-gritties of the recently launched Reno 6 series highlighting its video prowess with an “industry first Bokeh Flare Portrait Video” and “cinematic bokeh flare effects in portraits” AI chops.
“If you look at the Bokeh Flare Portrait Video, it’s a ColorOS-driven feature. Of course, hardware has a role, like if you didn’t have the relevant hardware it obviously won’t work, but the secret sauce is really going to be the OS in the time to come. That’s what we feel is going to be the future. That’s what’s going to distinguish how one brand is going to stand out vis-à-vis the others.”
ColorOS will be a “massive” differentiator for Oppo in the days to come though Khanoria admits, there’s a long way to go in really establishing it as a distinct and very capable operating system.
“The amount of work that goes into the OS, the number of things it’s capable of doing and the scale of differentiation we can drive with ColorOS as a brand, we’ve not done (complete) justice to it yet,” he says, adding “you’ll see a lot more around ColorOS in the months and years to come. It’s a big priority for us.”
Over the course of time, the Reno — now a thriving series of smartphones — story has transitioned into a story of subtle refinements. Those that may seem iterative on first look but go a long way in enhancing the user experience. Design is its other unique proposition.
“Over 20 patents have gone into the manufacturing of the Reno Glow 2.0 (seen on the Reno 6 series). From a design standpoint we’re extremely proud of the craftsmanship that’s gone into the product.”
Reno series product strategy
For Oppo, the Reno series has been about establishing itself in the 30-40k price segment. The Reno 6 Pro India price is Rs 39,999. This is for the version with 12GB RAM and 256GB storage. An 8GB/128GB version of the Reno 5 Pro cost Rs 35,990 at launch. That’s the reason why we haven’t seen a Reno 5 Pro Plus in India. That’s the reason why the Reno 6 Pro Plus isn’t coming to India either.
“The moment you move over Rs 40,000, the relative size of the segment and the number of competitors that exist there dramatically increase. So, for us in the current day and time, we feel we have a real opportunity of dominating the 30-40k price segment and that’s what we’re really focusing on,” Khanoria says, though he is also quick to add that, “over a period, as we really deepen our market share in this segment, we will think about getting more devices.”
Right now, it’s about dominating a segment that it has been focusing on before spreading over several different devices.
Aspiring to be number one
The pandemic has made smartphones an indispensable commodity. Their utility cannot be stressed enough. But while that is good news for smartphone makers like Oppo, it must brave bigger challenges. Its omnichannel strategy is on “boosters” right now, Khanoria says. Offline has long been its forte, now, it is doubling down on how deeply it works with its e-commerce partners (including from a marketing standpoint as well). It has set up its own e-commerce play with the Oppo E-store.
With Flipkart, for instance, Oppo is offering its devices through smart upgrades so a buyer needs to only pay 70% of the value for a product early on and then pay the balance 30% after a year.
“We’re always open to new ways of doing business, new ways of reaching consumers and just re-articulating how we’re doing, what we do. We have a fairly strong sense of purpose around how we’re going to approach the next three or four years,” he adds.
The goal is to eventually become the number one smartphone brand in India. Xiaomi holds the title currently.
“We’re here to really win as a company, as a brand, and I think that’s the reason why we’ve invested as deeply as we have.”
Speaking of rivals – particularly Xiaomi – who’ve started exploring the lifestyle space recently, Khanoria says, “we cannot be distracted by what competitors are doing because their truths and their philosophy of why they do what they do is there’s. Our truth is around creating products that help humanity or inspire humanity to use technology in meaningful ways.”
Oppo is on the right track, Khanoria says. Pretty much every product it has launched so far has received positive response. The Reno 6 series has recorded 178% increase on the first day of sales versus the Reno 5, which was launched in January.
“All this gives us a strong sense of belief in our India story and we believe we’re doing the right things. If we keep consumers at the centre of how we make decisions and we keep creating the amazing products that we’ve been creating, that Holy Grail of being the best in the industry is going to be ours very soon.”
The Oppo India story
Khanoria attributes Oppo’s success in India to a solid sales network, distinct marketing platform, and seamless manufacturing and R&D and going the whole hog in each of these key strategic initiatives.
The brand has a significant offline presence with over 180 exclusive stores, 60,000 sales points, and four flagship stores in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Ahmedabad. It has over 500 exclusive service centres. It has its own chat support group on WhatsApp to resolve queries.
“Our offline presence is fairly significant already. If anything, we’re probably going to focus on our exclusive shopping environments (going forward). These are destination stores for our consumers, and I think this is something that we are looking at amplifying in the years to come.”
Oppo’s celebrity tie-ups need no introduction. From Bollywood to cricket, it’s known for its meticulous campaigns, something that Khanoria says has “established the Oppo brand as one which does things differently.”
The third pillar, which is local manufacturing, is perhaps the most pertinent. Oppo claims it makes one smartphone every three seconds at its 110-acre “Superfactory” in Noida. The facility established in 2016, is part of the brand’s Rs 2,200 crore investment in the country. Oppo has also committed three and a half thousand crores to the electronic manufacturing cluster.
From an R&D standpoint, it has established one of its largest R&D centres outside of China in Hyderabad that’s driving innovation around its camera tech and helping ColorOS emerge as something which can be useful for its consumers in India. Oppo has further signed memorandum of understanding (MoUs) with state governments in Kerala and Telangana.
“So, what we’re really looking at doing from a foundational standpoint is really supporting the start-up community as well, providing them with the infrastructure that they need to create and innovate for our industry.”