Chinese handset makers Oppo and OnePlus are setting up research and development centres in India to improve their offerings of localised products and services for the fast-growing smartphone market and create hubs for global innovation.
The move is a natural extension of their already expanding local manufacturing capability,analysts said.
OnePlus,the leader in India’s premium smartphone segment,has said it wants the new facility to become its biggest in the world in the next three years.It aims to use the R&D facility–expected to be operational by March–to drive innovation in India for its global products.
Oppo,among the top five in India,launched its R&D centre in Hyderabad on Saturday,aiming to make it the company’s largest outside China.It was set up as part of Oppo’s global R&D strategy,in which it is investing$1.4 billion to work on 5G,artificial intelligence and Internet of Things.
“The India market is growing very fast and we want to get deeper consumer insights to offer a better experience that will help our business,”Tasleem Arif,head of R&D at Oppo,told ET.He said the new facility will not only focus on handsets but will also work on smart devices including watches and IoT products.
According to Prabhu Ram,head of the industry intelligence group at CyberMedia Research,handset companies setting up R&D centres is the next natural extension of their ongoing India strategy.
“It also showcases their commitment to India as a growth market and their continued intent on investing in,developing and leveraging made-in-India innovations,”said Ram.
TechArc’s analyst Faisal Kawoosa said that as Chinese vendors move up the manufacturing ladder,a closer localised R&D centre to support makes much more sense.
Products aligned to local needs and preferences will win in the long run as the market consolidates,said Tarun Pathak,associate director at Counterpoint Technology Market Research.
“Local R&D will help the brand to predict and be on top of the trends faster than the competitors,”Pathak said.
The R&D work of these companies is unlikely to be restricted to any specific segment but will cover aspects such as local content and services,components,quality checks,hardware trends and app development,he added.
Analysts said that over the next few years,these R&D centres will catalyse the Indian mobile handset ecosystem and contribute to the generation of new intellectual property as well as new made-for-India smartphone innovations.
“As a result,the India mobile handset market will become the hub for new smartphone innovations,not just for India but the world,”Ram said.
Global companies such as Samsung and Huawei already have R&D centres in India that support their handset businesses.Chipmakers Qualcomm,Mediatek and Unisoc have been leveraging India for their global products.
Pathak sees the Indian government playing a crucial role in driving the right policy reforms to drive R&D investments,besides funding engineering institutions and corporations to develop future research around 5G,automated manufacturing robotics,software,etc to build domestic intellectual property(IP)and a strong pool of highly skilled professionals.
“These will help to make India an R&D hub for this critical industry sector,”he added.
Ram said that these centers would act as the fulcrum to tap Indian R&D talent,as well as Indian ingenuity in coming up with new innovations,and would contribute to potential new solutions.”