If you follow developments in the tech world regularly, you soon discover that Xiaomi makes news often. And for all the right reasons. The Chinese electronics company has been launching smartphones regularly and passing benchmarks in India. And, it has been launching new and innovative products in China.
The Xiaomi team is currently touring India to promote the newly launched Redmi 3s and Redmi 3s Prime smartphones. In their first sale, the company sold almost 90,000 units of Redmi 3s Prime within minutes. We caught up with Xiaomi India's product head, Jai Mani, to talk about smartphones, the company's strategy here and more.
Xiaomi is selling more phones in India than ever before. What do you think has worked?
We have concentrated on a few things this year which matter the most to a smartphone user. That is, battery and premium design. If you notice, all our phones have a great battery backup no matter what category they are in. We really believe that user would be more than happy if they are able to carry on without a charge for more than a day.
Apart from that, we have ensured that all the phones have a premium quality build and a great camera. So when you're buying a Xiaomi phone you're getting a complete package.
What do you think is the biggest challenge in India?
Even though Xiaomi is based in China we can't just take a Chinese variant of the phone and ship it to India. This country has its own unique market. You have to mould the phone accordingly to make it fit here.
For instance, Chinese smartphones have multiple app stores. Their habit of using a smartphone is different as well. The LTE bands used there might differ from what is going to be there in the Indian market.
How do you think Xiaomi is performing against their competition?
Well, even though we are selling a lot of smartphones, we are not crazy about just achieving numbers. Our goal is that the customer should be satisfied with the product. After using it, he or she should recommend the product to others and buy the next generation device as well.
We believe in making our products future proof. Even though a lot of companies have adapted quick charging we believe that a bigger battery always provides benefits. We have also included LTE Band 5 in our phone to support upcoming networks for VoLTE.
Talking about the overall experience, you have done a lot of additions in MIUI 8. What has been the software strategy for the company?
As you know we started as a software company. Most of the core team was in Google at one point including me, so software is dear to our heart. We don't want gimmicky features in our OS which no one will ever use. Rather than making a presentation-friendly feature we want to make useful things which make customers stay.
In MIUI 8 we have dual apps which let you run multiple instances of the same app. For example WhatsApp, which is pretty popular in India. A lot of people wish that they can have separate WhatsApp account for work and friends.
We have done some customisation for India as well. Our messaging app separates messages from businesses and contacts. We have a special Hindi dialler. And, we have tied up with businesses such as Amazon, Domino's, Swiggy and Zomato. So, if any of their delivery person calls up, you would instantly know. We support the localisation of the phone in 13 Indian languages as well.
In India, Xiaomi has an image of being a smartphone company. What do you make of that?
Even though our business is centered around smartphones, we are not just a smartphone company, are we? It is true that we have a vast product range in China but in India too we have launched other products as well.
Mi Band was the leading wearable in India. People love to buy Mi Power banks, headphones and other accessories. So we are not just a smartphone company.
Many people want Xiaomi to bring products like TV in India. What's the plan ahead?
There are a lot of factors which go into bringing a product in India. For instance, if we bring TV in India without any content partnerships, it will sell as a hardware product. And we don't do that. We sell experiences. So we want to bring such products to India which will enhance the consumer's life.
This year, we are trying to bring in the Air Purifier, Mi Band 2 and Mi Box which is based on Android TV. Apart from that, our goal is to minimize the launch cycle between the global launch and India launch of the products.
While the company is among the top players in online sales, it is not among the top 5 smartphone makers in terms of market share. That is because of the lack of offline presence. Xiaomi's India head, Manu Jain, has said that the company is going to double their offline reach soon.
It is also producing more than 70 percent of the phones shipped in the country in their Andhra Pradesh factory. Xiaomi is already in talks with Foxconn to open more factories in partnership, to increase the shipment in India.