24/11/2016 4:16 PM IST | Updated 24/11/2016 5:47 PM IST

It Is High Time India Gets Its Own Xiaomi

We need a great hardware producing company that caters to our needs.

Kim Kyung Hoon / Reuters
Attendants are silhouetted in front of Xiaomi's logo at a venue for the launch ceremony of Xiaomi's new smart phone Mi Max in Beijing, May 10, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

It is hard to keep Xiaomi out of the news. Not for any controversial reasons but simply because the Chinese company launches so many new products in a week that it becomes difficult to keep track. Yesterday, they launched a smart Internet-connected speaker and a few days earlier, a battery powered anti-pollution mask.

Xiaomi has become so diverse in its product portfolio in China that it is hard to call it a smartphone or even a tech company anymore.

And, that sounds just like what the doctor ordered for India -- a company that can develop hardware products that are smart yet affordable and cater to the local consumer.

Xiaomi began as a software company and then made its name as a smartphone company in its early years. But, over the past couple of years, it has dived into diverse product categories. While many Xiaomi products, such as a VR headset or a drone, have a global appeal, solutions such as the anti-pollution mask, smart rice cooker, electric bicycle are aimed primarily towards Chinese users.

LightRocket via Getty Images
TIANJIN, CHINA - 2016/11/08: Smart devices are exhibited in a Mi experience shop.

There are many problems in India crying out for a smart tech product solution. From clean air to pure drinkable water to smart food makers, we have many potential product categories that a tech conglomerate like Xiaomi could produce the hardware for and fuel innovation at a rapid pace. Sure, Xiaomi does have some solutions suitable for an Indian user-base as well, but there are plenty of regulatory restrictions that delay the launch of those products here.

While Xiaomi started as a phone manufacturer, eventually becoming the fourth biggest smartphone seller in India, it has created a whole product ecosystem wherein a user could be enticed to buy more of the company's products that work great with each other. In India, Micromax once reached a point where it could have dived into more verticals. (It did launch some TVs.) But now, its position as a smartphone maker is slipping too. Currently, Micromax is in the third place, with Xiaomi breathing down its neck. If the trend of the past couple of quarters continues, it is very likely that Micromax will slip out of the top 5 smartphone sellers list in India.

Xiaomi has played it quite astutely, investing in multiple verticals such as entertainment, audio, fitness, and more. Even though the company is not the biggest smartphone seller in China, it is one of the biggest product companies there for sure.

Perhaps the only company poised to challenge Xiaomi in India, in terms of the variety of gadgets made available in the market, is Reliance Jio. Although, it is primarily selling smartphones, network services, and an app ecosystem, Jio is already in the testing phase to bring Gigabit Internet to Indian homes, along with entertainment and networking solutions. It is also planning to bring car safety and control device mechanisms at some point in the future. Jio has the scale and capacity to build the hardware around the services it is providing.


It is not anyone's case that to aspire to the "Xiaomi of India" title a company must produce smart IoT (Internet of Things)-related products. Technology can help them create even 'dumb' devices, useful to large sections of the Indian population.

Speaking of companies seizing the initiative, the Indian government too needs to put in place policies around manufacturing. The 'Make in India' scheme is helping many companies but a huge chunk of them are foreign companies. There is a need for a serious push from the authorities to encourage local hardware solutions that address local needs and requirements.

India is known for its IT prowess and has no dearth of talented people working in the industry. But it is high time that India has more technology companies besides software service providers.

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