Will realigning OnePlus, Vivo, OPPO work for China’s BBK Group in India?

China-based behemoth the BBK group that owns brands like OnePlus, Vivo, OPPO and Realme (not to forget iQOO) always had a clear market strategy and brand positioning in the fixed price segments for the India smartphone market.

Not anymore.

For the full calendar year 2019, the BBK Group dominated the Indian smartphone landscape with 37 per cent share, compared to 28 per cent of Xiaomi, according to Counterpoint Research data.

The market segmentation was crystal clear till then: OnePlus will fight the rivals in the premium space, Vivo and OPPO will take care of the mid-price segment and Realme would be the go-to-device in the affordable and low-price segment.

In 2020, the pre-defined territories are blurred and industry analysts see a clear deviation from the earlier India market strategy from the BBK Group.

OnePlus has entered the mid-price segment (taking on Vivo and OPPO) with ‘Nord,’ while Vivo and OPPO have arrived in the premium space with ‘X50’ and ‘Find X2’ series, respectively.

Realme has also entered the mid-price segment with X3 and X3 Pro devices in India.

The move to rearrange the pieces on the Indian smartphone chess board appears to be the next big move from the BBK Group to disrupt the status quo, kill the saturation, gain more market share and create a Samsung-like player which has presence across smartphone price segments in India?

According to Prabhu Ram, Head-Industry Intelligence Group, CyberMedia Research (CMR), in their initial, incremental market growth phase, the BBK Group-led brands focused on a clever market segmentation strategy, focused on building their own niche in specific price bands.

For the Indian consumers, these brands offered the best value, in terms of specs, design and overall experience.

“What we are witnessing now is an exponential growth phase, where these brands are focused on turbo-charging their growth. Through new device offerings in new price segments, these smartphone brands are seeking to leverage their brand resilience in the India market,” Ram told IANS.

In Q2 2020, Vivo had 17 per cent market share in India, OPPO 9 per cent and Realme 11 per cent ((in terms of shipments).

OnePlus regained its top position in the premium market with its newly-launched OnePlus 8 series, which also comes with 5G capabilities, according to Counterpoint.

BBK today is collectively the world’s third largest manufacturer, even bigger than Huawei in terms of volume.

Headquartered in Dongguan, Guangdong, and founded by Duan Yongping, BBK started with consumer electronics such as TV sets, MP3 players and digital cameras in the 1990s and then amplified its ambition into mobile phone production, rivalling Samsung, Huawei and Xiaomi.

In India, OnePlus has created a strong buzz around its affordable premium ‘Nord’ series.

OnePlus ‘Nord’ comes at a starting price of Rs 24,999 for the base 6GB+64GB model. The 8GB+128GB and 12GB+256GB models will be available for Rs 27,999 and Rs 29,999, respectively.

“Very interestingly, with the OnePlus Nord, OnePlus has showcased that affordability does not necessarily involve cutting corners, or compromising on quality and specs,” Ram noted.

With a strong brand proposition, OnePlus ‘Nord’ will potentially create new market niches for the brand, he added.

The BBK India story is going strong in 2020 amid the supply disruptions and the Covid-19 lockdowns.

In a year of 5G-enabled and foldable devices, BBK is set to give more jitters to the established players in months to come.

However, the danger lies in the fact that this brand positioning may end up hampering the growth of one of its own products that have cemented their space in the differentiated price bands in the country.

Time will soon reveal the next season of the BBK India story.