Chinese smartphone makers like Oppo and OnePlus are using India as their new hub for research and development (R&D) and to serve their global operations, especially Europe and the US. Both companies are making “huge investments” to build their largest R&D centres in India and are hiring local engineers to further develop on 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT).
Analysts said that R&D centres in India allow these brands to localise their global smartphone models quickly and innovate and develop “India-only” products.
OnePlus, a premium Android smartphone maker is investing Rs 1,000 crore ($135 million) over three years to expand its India R&D centre, which will become its largest facility globally by 2022.
On the other hand, Oppo is making investments in India under its global $7 billion corpus announced last year to develop core technologies in the domain of handset hardware, software, 5G/6G and AI among others over the next three years.
“We have established our 5G lab in India, which was a huge investment. The global bucket is $7 billion, and India is getting investments from that fund…Oppo’s India R&D centre is the largest outside of China…the Indian market is very critical. We are investing a lot on local resources in India,” Tasleem Arif, Vice President & Head, R&D Oppo India was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.
Arif revealed that Oppo’s India centre has already filed 80 patents for 5G and AI and is in a process to file 120 more patents.
Oppo has recently launched its 5G innovation lab within its India facility and is in the process of launching standalone camera and Artificial Intelligence (AI) labs. Arif said that the labs would allow Oppo to launch 5G smartphones at affordable price points.
Both companies, owned by China’s BBK Electronics, have their respective R&D facilities in Andhra Pradesh’s Hyderabad city, known for its IT and technology talent.
These local facilities work directly with European and North American telecom operators to offer 5G smartphones.
Ramagopala Reddy, Vice President, OnePlus R&D, India recently told local media that his local team worked closely with OnePlus’ team in China along with EU network operators on implementing measures for effective 5G network optimizations on the company’s 5G smartphones.
“Our OnePlus R&D centre in India is already playing a crucial role by establishing itself as a global R&D base for the brand, particularly from the software development front with contributions towards global markets as well, including European and North America markets,” Reddy was quoted as saying.
OnePlus India R&D team currently has over 300 employees working out of Hyderabad, while Oppo’s R&D team has over 400 employees. Both companies are now hiring graduates from universities like IITs and NITs across India through our campus placement efforts.
Seeing efforts made by these Chinese brands, India’s domestic brands like Lava, Micromax, and Karbonn have also finalised plans to create local R&D centres. These brands are now making investments to design their handsets locally to re-enter the smartphone market.
Lava has already shifted its China R&D centre to India with an investment of $10 million.
India’s apex electronics and mobile handset body, ICEA, recently said that it would soon develop a plan to create a smartphone design, R&D and application ecosystem in India.
India Cellular & Electronics Association (ICEA), represents Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, OnePlus, Apple and local handset brands.
“As a next step to the PLI (production-linked incentive), the Government is keen to create & develop technical know-how in India by bringing complete knowledge of hardware designing skills in India. It is being built to improve hardware design as well as to reduce the cost of design. Our aim is to eventually seek an opportunity to create a chip design and chip manufacturing hub in India,” ICEA chairman Pankaj Mohindroo said in a statement last week.
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