Technology has grown leaps and bounds in the past decade and while innovation exists in every corner of the tech world, one of the most important elements to grow in the past few years has been the smartphone. To elaborate, the idea of a ‘smartphone’ differs from person to person. While catering to every individual’s needs is not possible, knowing the demographic of a particular market is key to figuring out what kind of tech is the need of people in that market. With a large number of brands keeping the cut-throat competition at an all-time high, there is one factor that determines a successful business in the country and happy customers – a focus on what people want. Amidst the big names operating in the country, OnePlus is one such brand constantly looking to crack the Indian-smartphone buyer code.

The company landed in India about six years ago and has been quick to rise to popularity. Today, OnePlus phones are some of the most sought after flagship devices for a wide range of customers, from the expressive, energetic youth to the workaholic business class and everyone in between. A lot of factors have been key here, including the brand’s value-for-money, ‘flagship killing’ approach. However, OnePlus Head of Marketing Siddhant Narayan has let us in on another secret ingredient that has been a mantra for OnePlus in India – Keeping the customer’s needs ahead of everything else.

Watch: OnePlus Nord Review

“At OnePlus, our community of users is at the core of our efforts. We constantly engage with our users in line with our vision of building a socially engaged and user-first technology company. Our close ties with our users and our community co-creation efforts have helped build our brand,” recalls Narayan. “Our community also played an integral role in helping us become a leading premium technology company in India in a brief period of six years,” he adds.

OnePlus One and the foundation of the brand’s customer-centric approach

The brand, which also operates under the BBK umbrella alongside Oppo and Vivo has had a different approach towards making and selling phones right from the early OnePlus One. Instead of spending big bucks on marketing, the OnePlus One went through a unique invite-only initiative, where word of mouth was the only advertisement for the phone, which quickly became a much-talked-about phone. However, elements like the hardware and the software were never thrown in for cost-cutting. These small steps worked wonders because people who did buy the OnePlus One spent lesser money than the competition and ended up getting the same flagship-level experience, which thanks to CyanogenOS (which was in use back then) was also feature-rich yet bloat-free.

In the many phones that OnePlus has launched since, the brand has been trying to maintain the balance between value-for-money as well as a compromise-free customer experience. But no mantra works indefinitely, especially in the ever-changing tech domain. For OnePlus, two key factors have been ‘customer connect’ and ‘customer feedback’.

Emphasizing on consumer feedback

Consumer feedback is something a lot of companies rely on to better understand the customer. Programs like the OnePlus Open Ears Forum have done well for the company in providing valuable feedback particularly towards enhancing the OxygenOS skin. However, Narayan shares how OnePlus has taken larger steps to not just take feedback, but to also implement the consumer’s wishes into products right when they’re being made.

This is evident by ideas like the OnePlus TV Product Ninjas program, where community members played an instrumental role in co-creating special smart TV features with the OnePlus product team. These were then implemented as the Kids Mode and Data Saver features along with the launch of the new affordable OnePlus TVs. Through platforms like ‘OnePlus Ideas’, the brand has also been continuously taking suggestions for features users want to see in OxygenOS. Narayan even hinted at five new features that will be coming with future updates.

Connecting with the customer, beyond just their phones

OnePlus has also been focusing on a lot more than just selling their tech. This includes a number of campaigns the brand has initiated in the country. The #ShotOnOnePlus Academy is one such instance, where a series of one-day smartphone photography workshops dedicated to photography enthusiasts gave them a platform to learning from professionals in the field. There was also the OnePlus Student Ambassador Program, where select students from across India serve as OnePlus community specialists in their institutions.

The brand has also brought events like the OnePlus Music Festival to life, where some of the best national and international artists performed for the OnePlus community. Yet another recent example is the OnePlus Domin8 tournament where the OnePlus community found a platform to compete with their favorite gaming stars and cricket celebrities via popular battle royale title PUBG Mobile.

OnePlus Music Festival 2019

“An all-star event such as the OnePlus Domin8 PUBG tournament was a natural fit for the brand, and one which was very well received by the community,” exclaims Narayan. “In a first of its kind gaming tournament, Domin8 offered our community a valuable opportunity to gain a unique gaming experience. The Domin8 tournament generated incredible online community engagement with total engagement of over 8 million and total impressions of over 140 million,” he adds.

OnePlus Domin8

When asked about similar future events, Narayan also hinted positively, adding that “we will always look at working on more unique engagement that will add value to the community.” While this is fun, OnePlus has also given back to communities that aren’t as privileged, organizing events like Red Cable Christmas, working with an NGO to provide gifts for underprivileged children.

The way forward

Coming back to the idea of the modern smartphone, the most imperative element, beyond the hardware, the software, the design, and the ergonomics is adaptability. Phones and brands have gone from offering performance, to offering an experience via an ecosystem of their own.

OnePlus, OnePlus Nord

Today, smartphones are more than just the swiss army knives they have been for a while now. They are gradually becoming doors to an always-on, always-connected ecosystem. However, while smartphones are able to do more than ever, their customers may not all be on the same page, the same book, or even in the same library. Figuring out what customer needs and does not need what feature will play a key role in sales. Customer-centricity will play a huge part in determining who wins in markets like India.

For OnePlus, the way forward will continue to be on a path where the community is as important as the innovation behind any new product. With the new OnePlus Nord, the brand is coming back to a mid-range segment that was abandoned since the OnePlus X launched in 2015. With a range of audio products and TVs, the brand will also likely now be looking forward to building a wider ecosystem of products. While this is something a lot of competitors are also doing, for OnePlus, this is the next natural step to go forwards with, in line with their approach of keeping the customer first.