The key to success is not only to be in the right place at the right time, but also to exit a position when the timing is most appropriate. The departure of Manu Kumar Jain from Xiaomi, the brand which he successfully built in India right from the scratch, best exemplifies this principle. Chinese smartphone manufacturers have been under intense government scrutiny for the last more than two years now – ever since the Indo-China border clashes in 2020 – which apart from having an adverse impact on the brand also brings bad publicity to executives attached to them.
Jain himself captured the essence of quitting at the right time in his statement on Monday, that “change is the only constant in life”.
Industry executives and close associates of Jain, with whom FE spoke to, also said that his decision to move on came at the right time as his name was also getting maligned with the negative publicity Chinese handset brands were attracting with raids by Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax department on charges of tax evasion and money laundering.
“For someone who has built the company from scratch in India, and grown it to be the top smartphone brand, his upcoming stints are also going be successful. Xiaomi could not have asked for a better India head,” an industry executive said, adding that Jain not only contributed to Xiaomi’s growth but also played a key role in driving smartphone penetration in the middle and lower-income level groups.
During his stint as country manager and head of India business, Xiaomi’s market share grew from nil to 33%.
Jain joined Xiaomi in 2014 when the market was dominated by the likes of Samsung, Vivo, Oppo, Motorola, etc. With the price of its smartphones as low as `6,000 and better features, the smartphone maker gave a tough fight to its peers to become the top selling smartphone in the country. Despite the bad publicity which surrounds Chinese brands these days, Xiaomi has kind of held on to its position in the market. Its market share in 2022 was at 20% against 24% a year ago.
Jain, who hails from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh started his career with IT consulting company Genpact Headstrong Capital Markets. After working with different companies post completing his master’s from IIM Calcutta, he co-founded the e-commerce platform Jabong in 2012. The company was eventually bought by Myntra.
Apart from being a sharp marketer and builder of brands, people who have worked with Jain, said that his openness, clarity, and simplicity, are some some of the attributes which make working with him an enjoyable experience.
“At Xiaomi, he started ‘30 minutes a week’ initiative where he would speak to employees and this had a positive impact on many lives and career. He was there whenever anyone needed him. He played an instrumental role in all the spheres of business, including community initiatives like Mi fans,” an ex-Xiaomi employee said, adding Jain used to run the company like a family.
In fact, after Jain moved to Dubai in July 2021 following his promotion to global vice president, Xiaomi India’s attrition also rose significantly. In recent times, people like Sumit Sonal, general manager of marketing; Raghu Reddy, who was the chief business officer had stepped down from the company.
Jain, who was always calm even in stressful situations, was not happy with the way the regulatory burden was increasing on the company, according to his former colleagues at Xiaomi India. Some of them also said Jain, who once used to be very active on social media, had considerably reduced his presence in recent times.
Employees feel it would be difficult for anyone to fill the void created by Jain’s departure from Xiaomi. “Till Monday, we were hoping that he would again return to India but that hope is gone now,” an employee said, citing the internal discussions within the company.
In his farewell note on Monday, Jain said he would return to the Indian startup ecosystem and build something new in a new industry.