BBK is a Chinese multinational corporation. It owns a number of popular brands across various consumer electronics markets, including headphones, Blu-Ray players, and smartphones. It also oversees a number of major smartphone brands, including some fan-favorites — Oppo, Vivo, Realme, and OnePlus. Here we’ve discussed how this smartphone emperor came into existence and the genius behind it.
You have probably heard of these popular smartphone brands – Oppo, Vivo, Realme, and OnePlus. But what you probably didn’t know, is that all of these smartphone brands are under the ownership of a Chinese smartphone supergiant called – BBK Electronics Corporation. According to Counterpoint, Oppo has a global market share of 9%, whereas Vivo has a global market share of 8% as of Quarter 1, 2022. Individually, it might not seem impressive. But when you consider how both these smartphone manufacturers are sub-brands of BBK, you realize the corporation currently holds approximately 17% of the whole smartphone market. And that is without considering BBK’s other smartphone brands like realme or oneplus.
So, in a market dominated by juggernauts like Apple and Samsung, what exactly is BBK Electronics? And how are they becoming such a force to be reckoned with? Let’s start from the beginning.
History Of BBK Electronics
BBK Electronics Corporation was formed on September 18, 1995, in Dongguan, an industrial city in the Guangdong Province of China. The founder/chairman of BBK Electronics, Duan Yongpin, is a billionaire who became successful in a very interesting way. When gaming console manufacturer “Nintendo” was dominating the gaming market with their Nintendo Entertainment System, Duan Yongpin came up with the Subor gaming console for the Chinese market, made with the help of chip manufacturer, Mediatek. He wanted to compete head-to-head with Nintendo and devised a brilliant way to do so. Instead of marketing the console as a traditional gaming device, he marketed it as an educational system for children, which enticed many parents to buy it for their kids. If this trend existed today among PC manufacturers, today we wouldn’t have to convince our parents, that why we need a RTX 3090 for a school project. Now, back to the story,
To advertise the console, Duan hired the legendary martial artist and stuntman known for his slapstick acrobatic fighting style, “Jackie Chan,” and with this strategy, he was able to generate more than 1 billion Yuan. But that’s not all. Duan Yongpin was also an extremely generous person. He treated his business partners honorably, as he would hand out loans and extensions whenever they’d be in trouble. Even when his company awarded him with a huge chunk of money for making the brand successful, Duan Yongpin took most of the money and handed it out to his employees. However, the rest of the management did not appreciate his generosity, which led to clashes.
In response, he left the company with only six employees and whatever money he had left. But given how accommodating he was, most of the suppliers and distributors who previously worked with Duan Yongpin would also go with him and help establish his new business from the ground up. Duan Yongpin would then go on to start another venture in the consumer electronics segment with his new company Bubugao Electronics, which eventually became the smartphone titan – BBK Electronics.
However, BBK Electronics did not start off by making smartphones. Initially, the company would start its business by manufacturing and selling different kinds of CD, MP3, and DVD players, along with a range of household appliances. Besides these, Duan Yongpin’s company manufactured learning machines and phones, which he later split into separate entities. BBK was designated to produce learning machines, the consumer electronics sector of the company was handed over to the newly established Oppo, and Vivo was created to run the company’s mobile phone sector.
Although initially, there was a pretty clear separation between all the brands as they were manufacturing different products, but over time, those lines began to blur. As learning machines went out of fashion, BBK also took a step back from the spotlight. Similarly, Oppo stepped out from making only DVD players as they would focus more heavily on music players. However, with time, MP3 players would soon get integrated into the smartphones that we know today, which enticed Oppo to create smartphones too. This led to both Oppo and Vivo becoming direct competitors to each other as they both would be producing phones now. In hindsight, this may seem like a major issue for any other brand, but both Oppo and Vivo flourished as they used the teachings of Duan Yongpin to succeed in the smartphone market.
What Makes BBK Electronics Stand Out?
BBK Electronics stands out because of its multiple world-famous smartphone brands. But the real answer to this question is a bit more complex. Each brand under the BBK banner follows very specific strategies, which allows them to capture certain segments of the market. But at its core, all these brands follow Duan Yongpin’s 10-step process to success. Step one is to create a good product, which doesn’t have to be revolutionary, but rather a solid product that consumers are willing to buy. Step two to nine is marketing! This may come as a surprise, but in an industry where it’s hard to stand out from the rest with just product alone, Duan Yongpin knew marketing was the secret ingredient his brands needed.
Lastly, step 10 was to be generous and have integrity, Duan Yongpin’s earliest business philosophy. In addition to these strategies, all the brands under BBK Electronics followed one core business model – to make products that work. This might seem boring to the fans, but it’s an effective strategy and one of the key contributors to BBK’s success. For example, instead of taking risks to make foldable smartphones for a market that’s yet to fully adopt them, BBK focuses primarily on making phones already accepted by the masses. Moreover, all these brands conduct themselves independently, so they can make decisions that work best for the company. So, how does a conglomerate like BBK Electronics successfully establish not only one but four smartphone brands that are praised by millions of people? Let’s find out.
Oppo started its journey in the mobile phone market in 2008 with the “Smiley Face” phone. However, their first-ever actual smartphone was the Oppo “Find,” launched in 2011, which was endorsed by the world-famous actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Since then, the company has gone on to produce several other popular smartphone models, which include the Oppo A, F, N, R, Reno, and Find series.
The primary driver behind Oppo’s success is its innovative camera technology. The Oppo N1 was the first smartphone in the world with a motorized rotating camera that could turn up to 206 degrees. The Oppo R9’s IMX398 sensor revolutionized low-light picture quality, while the Reno’s 10X Lossless Zoom enabled ultra-wide-angle images. Oppo was also the first company to introduce Quad HD displays with the Oppo Find 7. They even made one of the slimmest smartphones in 2016 when they launched the Oppo R5, having a thickness of 4.9 millimeters. But just having innovative technology alone can’t make a brand profitable. Oppo boasted that the images taken from their front cameras were social media-ready, meaning the user could directly post the picture online without needing to post-process. And when you add affordability to that recipe, Oppo has created a formula for success.
After Oppo’s solid impression in the market, Vivo was preparing to make its debut. The company was founded in 2009 and unlike Oppo, positioned itself as a smartphone brand from the get-go. While Oppo primarily concentrated on providing its customers with camera-centric smartphones, Vivo utilized BBK’s strategy and transformed the brand into the company’s R&D unit, where Cutting-edge features, sleek designs, and audio enhancements would take top priority.
The Vivo X1 was the first phone to come out with a dedicated Hi-Fi audio chip which was a big deal in the audio industry. Moreover, the company adopted many of the latest technologies and features of modern smartphones including the implementation of an in-display fingerprint sensor, ultra-thin bezels, and a 120W fast-charging solution. And if you thought Oppo R5 was impressive for being low-profile, Vivo holds a Guinness World Record for making the thinnest phone in 2015 called the X5 Max. Some of its popular smartphone lineups are the Vivo X, Y, V, and U series. While the Vivo X series primarily comes equipped with state-of-the-art tech and specs, Vivo’s other phones are predominantly low to mid-rangers.
BBK also wanted to capture the budget sector of the smartphone industry. Although Oppo and Vivo did have budget offerings in their portfolio, the market was still largely dominated by Xiaomi. Xiaomi offered something the other BBK brands don’t specialize in – value-for-money. Thus, Realme was born in 2010 to challenge Xiaomi’s stronghold.
The relationship between Realme, Oppo, and BBK Electronics may seem confusing to some, but basically, Oppo is a subsidiary of BBK and Realme of Oppo. Also, all of these companies are owned by BBK Electronics. Since then, Realme has quickly captured a huge portion of the Indian market. The reason behind this growth is – Realme’s ability to take full advantage of BBK’s massive manufacturing scale. This led to Realme being able to produce feature-packed, yet relatively affordable smartphones compared to its competitors. The most impressive aspect of Realme is they were able to produce 27 smartphone models in just two years. Its numbered lineup of phones is traditionally affordable, but it has expanded its portfolio to include devices in the mid and premium-budget categories too. This is most prominent in Realme’s GT lineup, which offers both mid-range and premium phones. To summarize, the biggest draw for Realme’s smartphones is its insane value-for-money proposition that customers won’t find anywhere else.
Duan didn’t start OnePlus either, the BBK brand that Western customers might be most familiar with. Instead, former Oppo vice president Pete Lau and co-founder Carl Pei set up the company in 2013. While OnePlus has the highest global profile of any BBK brand, it is still a subsidiary of Oppo, making it a subsidiary of the parent company BBK. OnePlus is also arguably the most premium brand of the bunch.
However, it takes a different approach to Oppo and Vivo’s retail-based business model. OnePlus primarily targets online sales via platforms like Amazon, which has helped BBK enter European and US markets. OnePlus is more focused on making premium-grade flagship smartphones as they are directly competing against the best in the market. But to not alienate their budget-conscious customers, they’ve also released the OnePlus Nord lineup. Unfortunately, OnePlus has stagnated a bit over the last couple of years. A few unfavorable decisions, like the removal of Oxygen OS and moving away from the “flagship killer” moniker, made the smartphone manufacturer lose some of its relevance. But the brand is still BBK’s main weapon against Samsung and Apple’s flagships. And with a loyal fanbase, OnePlus still holds a very coveted position in the smartphone market.
Future of BBK
With multiple world-class brands under BBK Electronics, the corporation holds a strong position in the market. Its sub-brands are constantly innovating, and coming up with new products and features. Its brands are branching out into other sectors as well with products like wireless earbuds, smartwatches, and power banks, including Vivo’s subsidy IQOO. This smartphone sub-brand leverages experience in children’s educational electronic toys to create the world’s first education handset.
However, don’t be shocked if you see them become giants in their respective fields. All in all, given everything we discussed so far, it should come as no surprise how BBK Electronics became the smartphone emperor.