Xiaomi: Yes, there is something different about this tech company

Written by Nandagopal Rajan | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 1 2014, 13:03pm hrs
XiaomiThere is something different about Xiaomi. In fact, more than a tech company.
There is something different about Xiaomi. In fact, more than a tech company, it is a tech startup and those are rare in the mobile phone business. Why else would the vice-president of a global company be camped in Bangalore to oversee the launch, why else would he be giving out his email address to everyone from journalists to customers and why would he be replying to those queries personally. But then that is the kind of company that Xiaomi is. The kind of company that cuts the prices of its cheapest smartphone by 15% hours before announcing its India launch.

Still basking in the success of its first launch, the Xiaomi Mi3, of which it has sold over 95,000 units in a handful of weekly flash sales, you would have expected the company to charge a small premium for its next phone, or at least hold on to its price. But Xiaomis very visible vice-president Hugo Barra, who had an equally visible role during his celebrated stint at Google, says they can afford to take this cut, primarily because they dont need to spend on advertising. We will never spend on a full page newspaper ad... unless someone offers it for free, Barra says categorically.

But not everyone is happy with Xiaomi in India. For the 90,000-odd Mi3s that the company has sold since late July, it has also made thousands of buyers queue up virtually for a sale that literally lasts seconds, literally. India operations head Manu Kumar Jain, who earlier helped found Jabong, says they have at least a couple hundred thousand people waiting to buy the phone on Flipkart.com at 2 pm every Tuesday. This mad rush is now going to be replicated for an even cheaper smartphone from Xiaomi, the Redmi 1S, which will be available for pre-booking from Tuesday for the first sale on September 2. If Moto E made the Flipkart servers crash, then expect a repeat, maybe a in a lesser time for the 4.7-inch Redmi 1S is R1,000 cheaper and packs much better specs than the budget phone from Motorola.

But Barra is convinced that this is the simplest model around. The flash sale model we have in India is most similar to the model that we have in China where you do a pre-booking a week in advance, he says. Buyers in Singapore and Malaysia dont need to register as the demand is predictable enough for Xiaomi to handle. Both Barra and Jain agree that they underestimated the demand in India and wont repeat the mistake with the Redmi 1S.

Barra knows that a lot of buyers, put off by the endless wait for the phone of their choice, are turning to Plan B and buying other models. Jain confirms that they have data to back this phenomenon, see after 2 pm every Tuesday. But he thinks it is a great for e-commerce. After all, Xiaomi thinks of itself a e-commerce company. It would be an amazing thing for the country if we can contribute to the growth of e-commerce. Yes, there is something different about Xiaomi.