OnePlus opens its first experience store in India, but will continue to be an online-only brand

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On Bengaluru’s famous — and recently infamous — Brigade Road, OnePlus, the global mobile technology startup, inaugurated its first ever experience store. The team claims that the store is its first ever offline foray in the world. The store stands out for its sheer size, grandeur, and fusion of modern aesthetics and technology.

It is being positioned as a one-stop destination to experience the complete range of OnePlus products. Danish Sait, a popular radio jockey, kicked off the launch and was the emcee at the event. He joked that his was a ‘OnePlus family’ as he owns a OnePlus device himself and his mother too tried to get one during their most recent sale.

OnePlus Experience Store Bengaluru
OnePlus Experience Store Bengaluru

The Big Billion mystery

However, OnePlus has recently been in the news for something else — Flipkart tried to sell the OnePlus 3 during the recent Big Billion Day Sale, even though OnePlus has an exclusive tie-up with Amazon India.

On being asked about this by YourStory, co-founder Carl Pei quipped,

“We are unsure of what happened as well. And Sachin (Bansal) is yet to respond to my tweet. And we think the products were sourced from Amazon. We can only guess what happened.”

At the experience store, users will be able to buy accessories and fan merchandise. For their phones, the company still plans to continue with its online-only strategy and will sell them through Amazon and its own e-commerce platform. However, the team is open to the idea of OnePlus being an omni-channel venture.

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OnePlus experience store service centre

Three years and ‘Never Settling’

OnePlus co-founders Carl and Pete Lau along with Global Head of Marketing Kyle Kiang were also present at the event. Taking the stage, Kyle noted that while many people assume OnePlus to be a big brand, they really are a startup with just three years of history.

Speaking about the experience store, Kyle said: “The store aims to complement the startup’s online-only business model by providing an offline destination to our users to experience the complete range of our products before concluding the purchase on our exclusive sales partner Amazon.in or our exclusive e-commerce store."

Spread over 14,000 sqft, the OnePlus experience store is one of the biggest on Brigade Road. The store is spread over four zones with an independent service centre in the basement, three retail-cum-community zones on the ground and mezzanine floors, an office space on the upper floors, and a café-cum-lounge area on the rooftop.

The India focus

The OnePlus team believes that their experience store is a significant milestone in their India journey after establishing local manufacturing, an e-commerce store, and setting up exclusive service centres across the country.

In addition to the regular display and retail activities, the store will act as a hub of various community engagement activities. OnePlus fans are encouraged to visit the store and participate. To start with, OnePlus will be setting up an augmented reality game to illustrate its proprietary Dash Charge feature.

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony today, Vikas Agarwal, General Manager India, OnePlus said,

“We are pleased to launch our first ever experience store in India, one of our most important markets, and dedicate it to the OnePlus community who is the core of our very existence. It is for this very community that the store was designed, to deliver a personalised experience, while allowing them to try and test the complete range of our products before making a purchase.”

Omni-channel — maybe in the future

During his presentation, Kyle gave the audience a bird's-eye view of OnePlus’ three-year journey. Kyle said, "We are a younger company than people realise…" The projector promptly malfunctioned, to which he quipped, "We don't make projectors. We have a more focused business model on phones. Maybe next year..."

Kyle then recalled that when OnePlus initially launched in 2014, the company got over 10,00,000 forum visitors in July 2014. Among aspirational smartphone brands ($400 and above), Oneplus had the second highest market share in Q3 2016, sandwiched between Samsung and Apple.

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Samsung, OnePlus and Apple marketshare

When Pete visited India and hosted a meetup, he was shocked to see a lot of people with OnePlus devices, most of which had been imported from the US as the brand hadn't been launched in India at the time.

That is when they decided to focus on developing markets like India. The bet has so far paid off. At the press conference, Vikas noted that India is currently one of OnePlus’ top three markets globally after Europe. In 2014 itself, India is said to have contributed seven percent of OnePlus’ overall sales in just one month of operations.

As OnePlus has positioned itself in the premium brand category, as far as experience stores go, Apple is one of the earlier pioneers in building such spaces. Xiaomi has also got an exclusive experience centre that focuses on touch-and-feel and servicing. Carl, however, says,

“We are our biggest competitor and the best way to deal with it is by not thinking about it.”

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