Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is abuzz with activity in India. Soon after it launched the Mi 4i here, industry icon Ratan Tata announced the investment of an undisclosed sum in his personal capacity in the company. Tata is the first Indian to invest in the $45-billion Chinese mobile startup, which spends little on marketing and focuses on online resources. Though it has started exploring offline channels in India, Manu Jain, India Head, Xiaomi, says he is looking at a 70:30 online vs traditional retail sales ratio. Talking to Avanish Tiwary, Jain talks about Xiaomi’s new products and plans to set up a manufacturing unit in India. Excerpts
How much did Ratan Tata invest in Xiaomi? How did it happen?
We are not giving out the details. It was on for sometime. Basically, we went to him and he was pretty excited and decided to invest in his personal capacity. Obviously, it’s a great honour for us to have someone like Mr Tata onboard. We couldn’t have asked for a better mentor to teach us how to build a cool Indian company.
There is a lot of headroom for growth in terms of market share in India.
We are not really big on market share and we don’t always focus on numbers. It feels good when you are at a certain position, but that’s not driving factor for us.
We want to launch more and more products and don’t want to be limited to just phones. We want to be in other categories too. We have already launched our wearable fitness product, Mi Band, for the Indian audience and are working on our next product, Mi TV, which is set to launch soon.
Our users love the features we build in our phones, so we would be offering more such features. We would customise our phone content as per local needs, such as including various languages. We have announced that we will start with six Indian languages and include 10-15 more languages by the end of the year.
Second, we plan to launch our own e-commerce operations and set it up in the next few months. We started with power banks and phone covers on our own platform and will gradually include other products. We also plan to build our own R&D centre in India, for which we have taken a 25,000-square-feet office in Bangalore.
Will you have an aggressive offline sales policy for India?
We are consciously growing the offline marketing channel slowly. We already have two offline partners here to sell our products exclusively. First, we want to see how this goes from a long-term perspective and then we will take a call on it. In China, 70% of our sales are online and the remaining 30% are from brick-and-mortar stores. We want to achieve that share in India too, which is currently dominated by online.
Do you also plan to invest in Indian startups?
We would like to explore and look at cool, mobile-focused internet startups to invest here. We want to build an entire mobile internet ecosystem here. We are also looking at manufacturing opportunities. In two-three years, we will build the ecosystem for smartphone manufacturing. Right now, nothing exists from where we can source components for phones. Till the time an ecosystem is in place, we will assemble our products here and, over time, we will move towards manufacturing them too.
You ran into trouble over a patent dispute in Delhi. How do you plan to acquire patents in future?
We are a technology company, so we will be filing more and more patents. But you also have to understand we are just a five-year-old startup. Any company that’s 50-60-year-old will obviously have more patents than us.