Exclusive: Interview with Carl Pei, Director (OnePlus Global), talks OnePlus’ India plans


If you thought companies from China were done disrupting the Indian market, well, think again. It all started with cheap knock-offs, and China’s come a long way to produce some cutting edge technology since.

OnePlus is a young company that has its roots in China, but is now an internationally known brand courtesy the One. The way this new company operates is a bit different from the norm, and that along with OnePlus’ sole device in the market — the OnePlus One — has managed to create quite a stir. They call the One a ‘flagship killer’, and if you take a look at what the device has to offer — and for how much — you will but agree.

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The OnePlus One 

Available in 16 markets globally, the OnePlus One is sold on a rather unorthodox ‘invite’ system, where a to-be buyer has to be a holder of an ‘invite’ to be eligible for purchase. These invites are distributed by the company through contests and giveaways, usually via its forums.

While this $299 powerhouse of a phone isn’t available in India yet, the tech-savvy lot in the country have found other means and methods to get hold of the device, unfazed by the added risks. This seems to have been acknowledged by OnePlus bosses, who are now in preliminary stages of starting operations in India.

We talked to Carl Pei, Director of OnePlus Global about the company’s plans for India, and here’s what he had to say.

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GizChina (GC): The big one first: When can we expect the OnePlus One to be available in India?
Carl Pei (CP): The Indian market is very important to us and in entering the market, we’re more focused on doing it right than doing it fast. We can’t say exactly when we’ll be ready to launch.

GC: Will OnePlus in India follow the invite system for its sales, or will it be sold on a first-come-first-serve basis?
CP: We are committed to providing a fluid and efficient experience for all users who have our phone. This will mean having a fantastic customer support team in place as well as ensuring our production can keep up with demand. We’ll be better able to decide the best sales solution for India when we have a clearer picture of the aforementioned processes.

GC: Will it come with CyanogenMod or ColorOS?
CP: All OnePlus One phones sold in the Indian market will ship with Cyanogen.

GC: What price range can we expect the OnePlus One to fall in?
CP: We’re not ready to announce details such as the price range just yet.

GC: What tier of the smartphone market are you targeting with the OnePlus One in India?
CP: We really aren’t targeting any one group or tier of users; this is true around the world. We hope to attract users who identify with our mantra of ‘Never Settle’ and genuinely like our device.

GC: Will OnePlus have service centers in India?
CP: Yes, there will absolutely be OnePlus service centers available across the country. Providing a top notch customer support experience is one of our highest priorities.

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GC: Will it be sold online only? If yes, are you looking to partner with an e-commerce store?
CP: In the beginning, we will continue selling solely online as e-commerce is a space in which we are familiar and experienced.

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GC: Had India always been in your initial scheme of things, or has it been a reaction to the massive interest the OnePlus one has generated here?
CP: We did not anticipate an expansion into any market so early. However, due to the immense demand and support shown from our Indian fans, we have prioritized making our phones available to Indian users. Even without being able to get it shipped straight to their door, so many Indians have still decided to purchase the One and continue to contribute so positively to our forums and online communities.

GC: Given the diverse nature of the Indian market, what special challenges do you think you will have to tackle, and how?
CP: India is totally foreign to us. The language, culture, geography – it’s all brand new for our team. We’re actively hiring to build up a local Indian team who can help navigate OnePlus through these challenges and offer guidance on the best way to serve our Indian customers.

GC: Where do you see OnePlus stand say after a couple of years of operations in India?
CP: It’s so hard to say this early in the game but we’re very excited about the range of opportunity. Our hope is to broaden the choice for Indian customers and show them just how much they can get out of their technology.

GC: Through the recent months, quite a few Chinese companies have started operations in India. Do you think there’s something about the Indian market that appeals to Chinese phone makers?
CP: The size of the India is obviously attractive, but what really sets it apart are the people. India has such a savvy user base, they really understand the value of the device they’re purchasing. We feel that India is a place where we can potentially thrive because the users here understand what the OnePlus One offers as well as the mission of our company to build a device that doesn’t settle.

GC: Any message that you would like to give to the Indian fans that have been waiting for you patiently.
CP: We announced our hopes for India many weeks ago. Though much progress has been made in that time, the timeline for this project is still unclear. It is undoubtedly going to be a slow process because of our commitment to doing this exactly right. We’ll need time to figure out the best strategy for OnePlus and we are happy taking our time even if it translates into fewer sales. Our goal is not to sell a record number of devices. If we can find a small group of users who identify with our brand and our devices and make that group happy, that’s something that will make us extremely satisfied.

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So, it is pretty clear that OnePlus is keen on having a user base in India. What is also evident from this is that OnePlus’ modus operandi will be fairly different from what we’ve seen from newcomers like Xiaomi, et al, who’ve focused more on numbers. While OnePlus may aim to provide a fluid experience as Pei mentions, it will be interesting to see if that is possible keeping in mind the huge demand that OnePlus’ only device has garnered in India.

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