Oppo claims it makes one smartphone every three seconds at its 110-acre “Superfactory” in Noida. The facility established in 2016, is at the forefront of Oppo’s commitment to make in India – it is part of the brand’s Rs 2,200 crore investment in the country – while at the same time, it is also a technical showcase of its manufacturing prowess. Making in India is only one half of the equation though.
Oppo is also making significant investment in research and development. Its Hyderabad R&D centre is its largest R&D centre outside of China and plays a crucial role to help accelerate the adoption of advanced technologies like 5G in the Indian market.
Hot on the heels of dethroning Huawei to become the top smartphone player in China, Oppo would be looking to replicate its newfound success in the world’s second largest smartphone market where things are a little different – it is currently number 4 in the country, as per data released by multiple research firms. This is after all, “a market of strategic importance” for Oppo. Financial Express Online caught up with Oppo India CMO, Damyant Singh Khanoria on the sidelines of Oppo F19 launch on Tuesday to understand the brand’s journey, products, and roadmap for 2021.
FE: What is the general idea behind the F series? How was it conceived, and could you take us through the journey, including consumer response so far?
Khanoria: The Oppo F Series is a well-established and successful product family in India. Starting from the very first model, the F Series has showcased a commitment to bringing the latest tech to young discerning customers with special emphasis on design and cameras. We have sold over 10 million units of F-series in a short span of six years. A lot of this has been possible due to our retail and LFR partners like Reliance and Croma. They have been a strong retail associate for all our F Series products starting from F1 Plus in 2016 to F19 Pro series in 2021.
FE: Which F Series product has seen the most traction so far? Why?
Khanoria: Each generation in the F-Series has been a massive success, especially amongst young creators. It is our North Star. The F19 Pro series clocked sales worth over Rs 230 crore in only three days of availability in the market. The success of the F19 Pro series has propelled us to newer heights. And we are confident that the Oppo F19 will mirror the growth and popularity of F19 Pro series and all its predecessors.
FE: What is the purpose of launching multiple F series phones, standard, pro, and pro plus?
Khanoria: At Oppo we believe in the notion of “Technology for Mankind Kindness for the world”. We believe technology should act as an enabler that empowers consumers to do amazing things. In a saturated market like India where each consumer looks at multiple factors while selecting their preferred smartphone, it is imperative to create products that grab their attention and address their specific need and requirement. With the launch of various variants, we aim to bring innovative features at different price points to help the consumer make the right choice depending on their usage needs.
FE: How relevant is 5G to this portfolio? Why the regular F19 misses out on 5G?
Khanoria: While the deployment of 5G throughout India is making progress, its full availability throughout the country will take some time, so the demand for 4G will remain there. Catering to this demand, we are offering both a 4G and 5G variant for F-series fans and giving customers a choice that will meet their needs.
FE: How relevant is 5G to Oppo as a brand, is there a minimum number of 5G phones you are looking to launch this year? Is there a specific price segment that you are looking at for these 5G phones?
Khanoria: 5G, as the latest connectivity breakthrough in the world, has always been a priority area for Oppo. It has always been an important direction for our technological growth and to accelerate the development of solutions and standardization of 5G. In fact, we put together our specialised 5G team back in 2015, when the early stages of the 5G global standardization process kicked off within 3GPP.
We are leaving no stone unturned to make our users future ready. For the next few years, 5G will remain a key focus at Oppo India both from an R&D and product perspective. Our team is continuously working to proliferate and evolve 5G technologies to make them more affordable for the masses. All our efforts on 5G have also been appreciated well by consumers, as the CMR global study on 5G highlighted that in India, amongst early 5G smartphone adopters and tech intenders, Oppo scores the highest.
We have already launched two 5G phones in India in 2021, Oppo Reno5 Pro 5G and Oppo F19 Pro+ 5G. We aim at launching more 5G products across different price segments.
FE: Can you elaborate on your make-in-India journey, how far has it come over the years? And what lies ahead?
Khanoria: Established in 2016, Oppo Superfactory, a perfect integration of state-of-the-art technology and human expertise, has steadily navigated the growth and success of Oppo in India. With its high-tech manufacturing prowess, innovative automation and world-class equipment, the facility is at the forefront of modernising Indian phone manufacturing. The factory currently is having a capacity of producing over 50 million phones a year.
High precision 3D inspection machines (AOI), electrostatic discharge precautionary clothes, screen colour calibration equipment, innovative camera calibration machines, fingerprint calibration and testing equipment, antenna 5G test are among the few tech being integrated at Noida manufacturing plant. All this helps in increasing the efficiency of our workforce and product quality. We will be further building up on our manufacturing capabilities to meet the rising demand.
FE: Can you also talk about customer care and service centre support for your phones? How are you looking to expand on this front in 2021?
Khanoria: We believe that each customer interaction provides us with a moment of truth, an opportunity to satisfy and innovate to resolve the need and keep a customer. Hence, we connect with our customers throughout the product cycle be it research, sales or aftersales.
Our efforts towards a customer-first approach have been recognised both by industry stalwarts and consumers. Counterpoint recognised us twice for our excellent after sales service. In a 2020 consumer survey, Counterpoint accredited Oppo as No. 1 brand in customer satisfaction for after-sales service with 93 percent of the respondents rating their experience “very good” or “excellent”, also it was fastest in after-sales service turnaround.
With over 500 Oppo exclusive service centres and a 24×7 remote support we are available to help our consumers at every given time. Oppo was also the first smartphone brand in India to introduce an AI-powered Chatbot OLLIE available on WhatsApp.
FE: What is Oppo’s strategy and focus for 2021?
Khanoria: India is a market of strategic importance for Oppo, and we will continue to invest and lay the foundation for long-term success in the market. Through our industry-first innovations while designing more appeal to our audience, as well as upscale customers around the world we aim at establishing a unique position for the brand. We aim to build a meaningful and contextual relationship with our customers. Agility, innovativeness, and creativity will be the key to success for Oppo India.
Based on this strategy, 5G and IoT will be the key focus areas for us in 2021. We will continue to delve deep into our phone business and drive the development of 5G technologies. We will continue to build an IoT ecosystem and develop the business of multiple smart devices.
FE: What is the goal that you have set for yourself as a brand for this year: any numbers that you are looking to achieve in terms of sales and market share? What is the goal with the F series in terms of overall sales estimates?
Khanoria: Rather than focusing on incremental growth we aim to bring disruptive change for our users. Our primary focus areas would revolve around developing differentiated products and meaningful innovation for all.
As per February 2021 Canalys report, Oppo is having the highest annual growth rate of +23 percent amongst the top 4 smartphone players in India. We are also the market leaders in Southeast Asia and in India itself, our sales last year rose with a 33 percent increase in brand preference. We are focused on an aggressive multi-channel strategy and a hybrid approach to make our products available through all channels for our audience.
FE: Can you throw light on recent development in R&D activities in India?
Khanoria: Innovation and R&D is essential to our business and India is among the hotspots of our innovation strategy. Being the largest R&D centre outside of China, our Hyderabad R&D centre is playing a crucial role in the implementation of our 3+N+X technology development strategy and accelerate the adoption of advanced technologies in the Indian market.
The team here focuses on product localisation and innovation fields such as software, imaging, battery, performance, and communication network. The R&D centre is also working on further capturing consumer demand in the local market, working together with Oppo’s global imaging teams to build imaging technologies and features that better reflect consumer needs in India.
We have also set up a dedicated 5G lab – first in Oppo’s overseas market – and working relentlessly for accelerating the global 5G development. This 5G Lab helps us in the validation of all Oppo upcoming devices as per the operator needs across the globe including interoperability and conformance tests. Oppo India is among the few OEMs in India to invest in state-of-the-art 5G simulators.