China's OPPO embraces Xiaomi's flash sale gambit to grow Indian base

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Chinese smartphone maker OPPO, which has ceded ground to Xiaomi in the Indian market, is looking to take a page out of its Chinese rival’s marketing playbook with plans to hold its first online flash sale in the country early next week.

FILE PHOTO - A woman uses her mobile phone next to an Oppo mobile handset advertisement in Singapore August 7, 2017. REUTERS/Edgar Su

OPPO, which launched a new flagship smartphone on Monday in India - its biggest market outside China - plans to woo buyers with an online flash sale for the device on April 2.

Similar marketing gambits and other savvy moves catapulted rival Xiaomi into becoming the No. 1 smartphone seller in India in the final quarter of 2017, capturing a crown that Samsung Electronics Co Ltd had held for years.

“We are learning from other brands,” Will Yang, OPPO’s brand director in India told Reuters on Monday on the sidelines of the F7 smartphone launch event in Mumbai.

Xiaomi unseated its Korean rival Samsung thanks largely to the success of its online flash sales on both’s Indian portal and that of homegrown rival Flipkart.

Flash sales are usually organized by smartphone sellers to launch new devices on e-commerce websites with a limited stock, sometimes combined with cash-back offers. The phones usually sell out within minutes.

OPPO, the fifth biggest smartphone seller in India at end-December, sells the bulk of its phones via company-owned and partner retail outlets but the company, Yang said, is working on an online strategy.

“As the majority of the market is run by these two platforms (Amazon and Flipkart), we’re looking for partnerships,” he said, declining to give more details.

The new OPPO F7, priced at 21,990 Indian rupees ($339) for the 64 GB variant will be sold via a flash sale on Flipkart and through retail stores in the country on April 2.

Competition in India, the world’s second-biggest smartphone market and a notoriously price-sensitive one, is fierce and it weighs on margins, Yang said.

When asked whether OPPO was likely to feel the heat on its margins in 2018 as competition intensifies, Yang replied “maybe”, adding the company could cut margins depending on products.

OPPO, which currently assembles phones at two plants in north India and is building a third facility, is also considering designing its devices in India.

“We design now from software first but for the hardware, yes, we’ll definitely do it in the future,” Yang said.

($1 = 64.8400 Indian rupees)

Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Euan Rocha and Adrian Croft