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OnePlus founder Carl Pei’s latest baffling move (or marketing stunt?): Asking Samsung for internship


OnePlus’ approach to market has always been a little unorthodox. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether they’re criminally great marketers or just a little “out there”. Either way, whatever they do, it seems to work from them. Most of that seems to come from Carl Pei, the company’s co-founder, whose approach to business, and perhaps life in general, raises eyebrows…

In an interview earlier this year he revealed that he lives in AirBnB accommodation, has only multiple versions of the same outfit, but has ambitions to change the technology industry, and with that, change the world. One thing I’ve admired for a long time though is how honest he is about his company’s shortcomings. Only recently he openly stated that they messed up the OnePlus 2 launch, and apologized to fans and customers. Even after raising its expectations, and getting more inventory onboard for the second OnePlus handset, it still wasn’t enough, and left many waiting for weeks to get an invitation to buy one.

Now manufacturing is ramping up, and handsets are making their way to customers. But Carl Pei still isn’t happy, he wants to learn more, so that the company’s logistical operations can be improved. That’s understandable. Still, his proposed method of getting that knowledge is a little baffling, to say the least.

In a personal blog post entitled ‘Here’s an idea’ the OnePlus co-founder once again admits failure to get OnePlus 2 units shipped on time. His proposition to improve the company’s logistics is to look to a more established tech company, one which has successfully grown over decades: Samsung.

So, Samsung, today I have a proposal for you: let me be your intern. Seriously.

I would be honored to learn from your team about how you’ve been able to scale, run, and manage your business so successfully. In turn, I would be happy to share what we’ve learned about how to engage with our community and implement their feedback to deliver a better user experience.

We could probably debate for hours about whether this is really a ‘serious’ proposal, or just another marketing ‘stunt’. I’ve always seen OnePlus’ efforts as honest, although naive and misguided at times, but I know others see everything they do as deliberately crafted PR stunts to get attention. And this certainly got my attention.

OnePlus, whose plan is to disrupt an industry by releasing a flagship phone at a fraction of the usual cost. In a disrupted market, no company has more to lose than Samsung, the company Pei wants to give him their logistical knowledge. It’d be like an established taxi driver giving his secret back-street routes to an Uber driver to help make the on-demand chauffeur service better and faster. And in return, the Uber driver teaching the taxi driver how to be friendly to customers.  It doesn’t compute.

Perhaps a more beneficial route to improving would be to hire someone who knows logistics, assembly lines and inventory management. Someone to OnePlus like Tim Cook was to Apple all those years ago, when it went through a shakeup after the return of Steve Jobs. OnePlus, like Apple all those years ago, has a small portfolio of products but needs to get them to customers quickly, efficiently and not overstock inventory, so as not to lose money. Interning at the very company you’re trying to take down isn’t the way to do it, I feel.

Whether or not Samsung decides to take Carl Pei up on his offer is yet to be seen, but if they do, that would be something.

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