Most of its mobile phones, which it sells only online, look like Apple’s iPhones — but are much cheaper. China’s Xiaomi, after having eaten into the US-based handset giant’s market share on home turf, has now set its eyes on India and plans to replicate its model here, too.
Hugo Barra, who recently came from Android to join as Xiaomi’s vice-president, sounds quite resolute when he says his company’s model, with which it beat Apple in China, will help it garner volume market share in India, too. The trump card, probably, are its price points: It will sell its mobile handsets at around Rs 20,000 —less than half the starting price of Apple’s phones.
Within two years of the August 2011 release of its first smartphone, Xiaomi’s share of the Chinese smartphone market reached five per cent in the second quarter of 2013, compared with Apple’s 4.8 per cent, according to research agency Canalys.
Barra, in charge of the company’s products and operations in all markets outside of mainland China, recently said India was one of the sweet spots for Android smartphone maker Xiaomi, as the equation of quality and affordability worked well in the world’s second-most-populous country and the third-largest smartphone market. Markets like Russia, Indonesia, Latin America and Thailand are also on Xiaomi’s radar.
Among Xiaomi’s innovative ideas is selling its products only online. Every Tuesday, at noon Beijing time, it unveils a new batch of smartphones (100,000 units) after analysing user feedback. Apple studies feedbacks only once a year.
At present, Indians could buy Xiaomi smartphones at retail website www.xiaomiworld.com. The company then supplies the product through courier. A customer can pay through Paypal. These products are also available on some of the Indian e-commerce sites like www.91mobiles.com, www.olx.com, which source these from Xiaomi.
To Business Standard’s specific query on how it planned to sell its products in India, the company did not respond.
An analyst tracking Xiaomi said it might take the general retail route to push products here, apart from selling online. Sources tracking the company also say it would develop some India-specific low-cost models to take on Indian smartphone manufacturers.
The company’s latest flagship smartphone, the Mi-3, sold 100,000 units in less than 86 seconds of its launch on the company’s retail website.
If Xiaomi does enter India, it will also face fierce competition from South Korean major Samsung Electronics and home-grown Micromax. Here, Samsung leads the smartphone market, with a 26 per cent volume share as of the second quarter of 2013, according to International Data Corporation (IDC). It is followed by Micromax (22 per cent). Apple's share is below three per cent. Smartphone sales in India are estimated at 35-40 million units a year, compared with China’s 360 million shipments.
According to a Canalys report, India’s smart-phone market has grown 129 per cent in the September 2013 quarter, while the growth rates in China were 108 per cent and globally about 50 per cent.
Xiaomi has its cost advantage but it might also face competition from home-grown companies like Micromax and Karbonn, as most of their smartphones are priced below Rs 20,000.
The company is currently valued at $10 billion while its annual revenue is at around $4.6 billion.