Xiaomi is now the second largest smartphone vendor in India. Its Redmi Note 4 became the highest selling smartphone in terms of volume in the first quarter of 2017, beating Samsung’s popular J series, which is a first. While we have seen three Redmi variants launched in India so far, there’s still no word on when Mi branded phones, (which are usually priced higher) will be launched in India. Shruti Dhapola spoke to Xiaomi India managing director and vice-president Manu Kumar Jain on what the strategy will be for India and whether it will bring more Mi ecosystem products to the market. Excerpts:
On how Redmi has become the defining brand for Xiaomi in India:
Redmi and Redmi Note are our most popular series of smartphones. This is a more affordable series, usually priced around Rs 10,000 and it competes with phones which are double the price. When we started, 50% of the market was for phones costing less than Rs 6,000. Around 30-35% were playing in the Rs 6,000-15,000 price bracket. Rest were above Rs 15,000. We basically chose to attack mid-price segment when we started with our Redmi series. I think over a period of time, more and more people are migrating from the sub-Rs 6000 price range to the sub-Rs 12,000 kind of price range.
But remember, India is different from other countries. Most people are still first-time buyers, upgrading from feature phone to smartphones. People who are first-time smartphone buyers are still buying under Rs 6,000, but anybody who has bought a smartphone before is upgrading to the Rs 6,000-15,000 price range, which is where Redmi plays. So now we have Redmi 4A, which caters to the first set of audience who want to buy under Rs 6,000. Then we have Redmi Note 4, and Redmi 4, which cater to the other segment of users.
On the success of Redmi Note 4:
Redmi Note 4 has been the best-selling phone, number one in Q1. That is not just online, but online and offline sales. For the last six-and-a-half years, only one brand’s phone was number one, Samsung J series. J2 was number one for the last couple of quarters. For the first time, Redmi Note 4 has become the number phone in a quarter with 1.8 million units sold in Q1, according to IDC. In fact, everybody knows that we have a 4 GB RAM+64 GB phone at Rs 13,000. We will replicate the same story with Redmi 4.
On Xiaomi’s Mi Router 3C launching in India:
The way we see it: first, better network is needed, and second, the device needs to improve. The current set of devices do not support really high-speed internet, and most routers are very ugly. Second, they don’t have great network strength. Our Mi Router 3C changes all of that. Ours comes with 4 antennas, supports high-speed internet. Plus it is easy to set up, you can change settings at one go. There are multiple other use cases as well. You can create a guest login, check internet consumption and set an actual limit, and even block devices.
On Mi Home ecosystem products and their launch in India:
We plan to launch as many products as possible and this will help with our Mi Home strategy. People can see and experience these products. The reason why we are not bringing all our products is not because of single brand retail issue. We are selling through our own e-commerce platform, but we have a partner who is doing it for us. Single brand retail would help us in the long run.
However, many of the products are not suited for India. Then, some of the products will require customisation. Finally, many of these products have structural barriers. The Ninebot will face more than 100% import duty.
On whether Xiaomi’s Mi branded phones will be launched in India:
We carefully evaluate whether we should launch a product in India, and this is not just for Mi phones, but also for Redmi phones. The OS, 4G bands, etc., have to be customised And yes, certification takes one-and-a-half to two months at times.
Mi phones will be coming to India for sure. This will be an upgrade to what we launched in India last year. Many more Mi products are coming this year. For us, Mi is the flagship series. Our company logo is Mi. In both Mi and Redmi we will pick and choose what will work in India.
On Xiaomi investing in Indian startups like it does in China:
The way it works in China is that our total number of investments is more than 300. About Xiaomi specifically, we have done
165 investments. Out of which, 80 are in ecosystem companies, these companies design products for us, and they may design these products and sell them under Mi brand or a different brand.
In India, we have invested in five companies which are working on software. We are open to investing in hardware tech companies in India, but only if we find some good ones.