OK … i’ll start off by being honest here … I’ve been living with a Samsung smartphone, which for the better part of the past two years has served me well, taken quite a few knocks and still managed to live through. However, lately, the poor old thing hasn’t just been able to keep up with the change and has slowly been dying on me…(Slow is an understatement, at times, while opening up contacts, you can go and make a coffee while it opens up)! So I started off on this quest of smartphone research and check the next phone that could serve me well, for say, at least another two years. After a lot of research (and that’s been quite a bit over the past two months), the OPO seemed to be best choice, both by specs as well as price. But little did I know the effort required to get a phone. In a country, where phones are available dime a dozen, here is a phone that you actually need to work for to own!! And that started off this quest of trying to understand OPO ….
So here is a firm / start-up that has managed to shake things up a bit with the launch of a phone with flagship features at an unbeatable price! For that, one must hand it to OPO! Awesome!! In the process, you have also broken up all previous practices of technology product sales by going in for an invite-based system. Does it work, we don’t really know do we, unless some financials come up ….
So why go for this system, especially when you need to really make a splash in the market?
- As a new firm, OPO needs to be in total control of its manufacturing. Based out of China, doesn’t always inspire a lot of confidence. By opting for an invite-based sale, OPO is able to manage demand and its Supply Chain. This will ensure that the products coming off its stable are top-notch in build and quality! Secondly, this will also help the firm establish its image as being SEEN as a value-driven smartphone manufacturer, rather than a volume-based one!
- A lot of focus seems to be on how OPO is managing its cost, while many state the absence of a marketing and distribution spend to be the factor in OPO managing to sell a premium phone at such a low price. It cannot be the only factor. OPO may only be generating wafer-thin margins here. Because, there is only so much one can do with manufacturing costs. Smartphone manufacturing is primarily an assembly driven process with the major costs being of the components that make up the smartphone. Since OPO does not have the scale, the components cost would not have been any lower than say a Xiaomi (possibly could only have cost more to OPO). Cost cannot be just the factor for this Go-To-Market Model.
- While product build and manufacturing control may be a key decision, I guess, this is still more of a brand-building exercise and that’s a good thing. On many of the posts by OPO members, it seems that the firm is OK with not making money the first two years. While that means, there is some serious investment backing with the firm, it also means, that the firm is here for the long run! By creating a demand, the firm is also creating a following. Going by the number of members on the OPO site and the number of invite requests, even going by the steps people are willing to take to get a phone (look at me, writing a blog!! J ); it’s mighty laudable. The only other firms that have managed to build such a cult following is Apple and to a lesser extent Google (with Android – with its primary position of being free and anti-Apple). It is here that I see OPO facing a challenge, challenge of Scale and Personality. Google has the scale and strength of technology; Apple has(d) a charismatic leadership and a brand following cultivated over the past two decades (and more). OPO has a long way to play catch-up; in an area where none of the other manufacturers (even Samsung) have been able to muster any following.
Today, the following is more focused on getting an invite and being part of the ecosystem. Developing a loyal fanbase, would require OPO to be making a lot more efforts; such as, regular members-only events, campaigns, off-market discounts, accessories, personalized mailers and the likes. OPO has a good following, but now the firm needs to improve on the quality and type of following it wants and work towards it.
All in all, it takes courage to shake-up a market that has players worth billions and also a market that has seen the demise of erstwhile giants (read Nokia, Motorola, etc.). Is OPO the flagship killer or a giant slayer. Guess only time will tell.
Till then … NEVER SETTLE!!
Note: This was also posted to the OnePlus forum (in the hope of getting an invite … which I did, within minutes…!! 🙂 )