OnePlus CEO Shares What it Takes to Create a Global Disruption
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Pete Lau mastered the fine balance of power with design while conceptualizing
the OnePlus 6, which eventually became its USP. Exactly 10 days prior to its India launch, Lau meets us in Mumbai to give us a sneak-peek not just into the smartphone but also on his game plan of building one of the best designed product in the recent times and why India remains its most important and biggest market.
What life is like for a smartphone start-up?
The smartphone industry not only provides immense opportunities but equally tremendous challenges. So several companies enter the business but eventually fade away in the face of harsh competition. Right now, the industry is so enormous that you cannot compare it with any other. So every day, a new challenge is fired at you and you have to overcome those. We are lucky to have survived and moreover, OnePlus's success is all we represent today.
In the past two or three years, several smartphone brands have been launched but none of those could survive. However, owing to our success in India, we are
now being considered as the number two in the premium segment.
Before this, you were associated with Oppo for a very long time, so while starting OnePlus was there any disruptive strategies that you devised?
My focus has always been on manufacturing the best product possible. With a
great product, success comes automatically.
In 2013, the evaluation was, there were not many great smartphones available.
Firstly, the products, which were available, were not upto the mark and did not satisfy me. Secondly, the internet-centric business model for a premium product was another opportunity that I found lucrative.
Did you take into account any particular consumer insight that has been
incorporated while designing OnePlus 6?
There are tons of those. For example, we have added a special feature called the paintbrush effect and it has been designed differently for different markets. In North America, the expectation is that the photo should be as accurate as possible. But in India and China, people prefer the beautification mode.
Another example would be the call receiving feature. Sometime back, I received a direct feedback on it. Traditionally, when a call comes in, we swipe down to answer it and swipe up to refuse it. However, a customer from London, last year, told me that he would prefer a swipe up option for receiving calls. In OnePlus 6, the user has the option to change this particular setting.
Will there be any change in the retail strategy for OnePlus in the future?
There won't be any drastic changes in the retail strategy. In India, our experience stores are very important hence, we are expanding. People can visit these stores and experience the product first hand before they decide to buy it. This model has worked for us essentially because it is an expensive product.
What is the market size for OnePlus?
India contributes to one-third of the total revenue of OnePlus and is the largest market. Other regions that come after India (in terms of revenue contribution) are Europe (as a whole), China and the US respectively.
How strong is its presence outside India?
Different regions are at different stages of development. For us, it remains very simple - we maintain a global standard for all of our geographies focusing on excellence. A good product is certainly valued everywhere. In a competitive market like China, there might be products with a design that's rated at 8, hence we are compelled to achieve 8.5 or 9. However, our focus is to maintain a rating of 9 even in countries where other companies with 6 or 7 rating are doing great business.
Does the perfection eat into your profitability?
Our prime focus is on making the product great and ensure that there is value for
the users. Sometimes these changes directly affect the pricing but our core product philosophy is - 'if the change is worth, then it's worth it'.
For example, adding circles to the camera (of OnePlus 6) is only for the sake of
aesthetics, they are not critical to the functionality, but it's definitely a differentiating factor. We decided to go with it even though the cost went up. Many of the companies will not spend a great amount of time deciding on the polish or the curvatures. However, for OnePlus to get the right finish, we would spend a great deal of time upon it.
For one of our products, the launch was meant a week prior but we had to push it because the product was not perfect. The decision was made even after the invitations were sent out and the products were sent to different geographies.
It is perfection that we thrive for.
Learning More About Pete Lau
Hobbies: Listening to audio books and watching Game of Thrones.
Bentley for achieving the highest level of elegance in a sports car.
Steve Jobs for his consistency in product perfection.
(This article was first published in the June issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)