Premium smartphone maker OnePlus is betting on the engineering talent pool in the country to drive innovation and expects India to become its largest research and development (R&D) base in the next three years.
The company, which has recently set up its R&D centre in Hyderabad, has similar facilities in Shenzhen, Taiwan and the US. It has about 700 people globally working in its R&D teams.
“We are looking at India as a global talent hub for the company. The idea is to have a long-term approach, bringing the best of talent and training them and have them work with us over the long term…. We anticipate that India will be our largest R&D base in three or more years,” OnePlus co-founder and CEO Pete Lau told PTI.
He added that the company is engaging with the top engineering colleges like IITs to scout for talent. The India R&D team has under 100 people currently.
The focus, Lau said, is on using software and technologies like artificial intelligence to make a global impact.
He, however, declined to comment on how the headcount of the India R&D team would be ramped up.
Lau highlighted that there is “significant untapped potential” in the Indian market as the premium segment accounts for about 4-5 per cent of the overall smartphone shipment.
“The premium segment is about 4-5 per cent right now but if 3-5 years from now, it were to be 15-20 per cent, the market scenario would be totally different…We are here for the long play. That is what we have told the India team, they need to focus on being healthy and sustainable in the long-term,” he said.
In August, Lau had said India accounted for about one-third of OnePlus’ revenues last year and is set to become the “second home ground” for the company.
India is a key market for smartphone players as it continues to grow at a strong pace. According to research firm IDC, smartphone shipments in India touched an all-time high of 42.6 million units in July-September 2018 quarter, registering a year-on-year growth of 9.1 per cent.
Over the last few months, a number of players have launched devices in the premium category, the latest ones being Huawei with its Mate 20 Pro (Rs 69,990) and Asus with its gaming smartphone – ROG phone that was launched at Rs 69,999.
OnePlus, which had entered the Indian market in 2014 with Amazon as its e-commerce partner, held a 30 per cent share in the premium category (Rs 30,000 and above) during the July-September 2018 quarter, as per research firm Counterpoint.
Samsung was the second largest player in the category with 28 per cent market share, followed by Apple (25 per cent).