In fall 2016, Oppo and Vivo shipped a combined 39 million smartphones for the quarter, nabbing the top two spots in the Chinese market for the first time ever, according to IDC—and selling nearly five times as many devices during the same period as Apple, which saw its share plummet 34% year over year. What’s most remarkable is that Oppo and Vivo are subsidiaries of the same parent, BBK Electronics, which has seen their combined market share shoot up more than 1,000% since 2012.
By targeting what are called Tier 3 to 5 cities—less developed, more rural areas, considered smaller by Chinese standards, but which are still larger than Chicago or Houston in many cases—with solid handsets designed for value-minded consumers, BBK came to dominate China through a network of more than 200,000 independent retailers, which take attractive commissions for each sale in this historically untapped market.
Next up is BBK’s OnePlus, a younger brand marketing higher-end devices abroad through online channels, including in the U.S., Europe, and India. What’s the strategy behind all three brands? OnePlus founder and CEO Pete Lau says “there’s no joint, centralized strategy”; BBK, rather, mandates they operate independently—even if that means competing with each other for the same resources. “China is probably the most competitive smartphone market in the world,” Lau says. “But we believe the competition globally is about to heat up.”