Beginning his career with Videocon as a management trainee, Sumit Walia, worked with LG, Huawei, Samsung and Tata Tele Business Services before joining OPPO India in July this year as vice-president, product and marketing.
In an exclusive chat with afaqs!, Walia talks about the competitive landscape, the marketing challenges and his professional life so far.
“Throughout my journey, I strived to gain consumer insights and use these to enhance the consumer experience. In after-sales, I learnt from feedback. When I joined sales, I learnt about what consumers demanded. When my role permitted me to make products, I wanted to bring them alive in the most creative manner. All this has led me to a point where I can influence the product marketing strategy in my current organisation,” he shares.
One of Walia’s most professionally fulfilling experiences was the India-first launch of OPPO’s Reno2 series, manufactured at the company’s Greater Noida facility. “This shows our commitment to India not only as a smartphone market but also to the Make in India programme,” he asserts.
“It is the across-the-board investment, the 60,000+ sales points and 500+ exclusive service centers in India that have led to a 41 per cent YoY growth in the second quarter (Q2) of 2019 for the brand,” he justifies.
Walia also shared his views on the fan-driven marketing approach that the brand has employed in India.
“The nature of the smartphone business demands a 360-degree approach with new-media integration at the centre. We have always been open to exploring platforms that help us connect better with our consumers, especially millennials and Gen Z. The mega marketing campaign for our recently launched Reno2 series is one such initiative,” he explains.
The smartphone brand has been known for commercials with glossy, zoomed-in product shots and the current TVC is no exception. The brand has signed-on Bollywood actors Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif, along with popular rapper and musician, Badshah in a bid to ‘add the cool and fun-quotient’.
OPPO does not believe in subtle messaging and has always invested in big-bang celebrity-led advertising including a short-lived association with the Indian cricket team.
Since 2014, OPPO has signed on several A-listers to promote its devices across segments — including Deepika Padukone and Hrithik Roshan, Sonam Kapoor and cricketer Yuvraj Singh, to name just a few. It has also used celebrities in the news: for example, the brand collaborated with actor Vicky Kaushal post the success of his film, Uri: The Surgical Strike.
Why this reliance on well-known faces?
Walia responds, “India as a market is still fragmented across its landscape. We understand that consumer needs are dynamic and we constantly strive to offer products that meet their needs. In the smartphone category, a familiar face always helps in a deeper connect. That’s why we will be featuring a fresh set of Bollywood stars with whom the current generation can relate. As a full-range player, we have to identify the right face for the right product in order to push the multiple propositions that we offer.”
Meanwhile, OPPO recently came on board as the presenting sponsor for Season 11 of Kaun Banega Crorepati (KBC) Season 11. “We are increasing our footprint and we believe that shows such as KBC help us garner a pan-India presence across a diverse set of audiences and age groups. Likewise, we are exploring partnerships and associations at a regional level to connect with consumers in non-Hindi speaking markets,” reveals Walia.
The brand also hosted the ‘Straight Up Punjab’ music festival in New Delhi last week, which it claims is ‘a first of-its-kind YouTube Originals to bring the best of Punjabi music talent on a common stage’.
Walia says he would like to better understand the evolving consumer, “My aim is to heighten consumer engagement by bringing localised insights across the product and marketing portfolio.”
Here’s our industry expert’s take on OPPO’s strategy,
Rahul Vengalil, founder at What Clicks, a digital media audit and strategy firm based in Bengaluru, feels that these high-budget campaigns work at heightening brand salience. He thinks that this kind of advertising is needed to capture mind space in today's highly cluttered market dominated by the likes of Xiaomi and Samsung.
However, he points to the decline of brands such as Nokia, Blackberry and Sony saying, “The brand that fails to bring in newer versions is the one that will lose out in the race. It only takes one customer experience-led innovation to break the clutter.”