Xiaomi in India: A Journey that Transformed the Smartphone Scene


This week, Xiaomi celebrates its second anniversary in India and is offering great discount on products for its customers. Its quite intriguing to learn how this company made its way to glory over the past two years.

Early 2014, It wasn’t easy at all for any new company to establish itself in the smartphone market which was dominated by Samsung in India. However, Xiaomi adhered to its goal of providing affordable technology to people and managed to strike a cord by offering great products at reasonable prices. They have been progressing in the right direction ever since.

Xiaomi was founded in 2010. They’ve been able to bring together like-minded people from Microsoft, Google, Motorola, Yahoo and other big players in the industry with a focus of making innovative products at ground breaking prices. They reached great heights in China by 2014. Mi 3 was Xiaomi’s top performing smartphone in China then, so it was a logical move to introduce this phone in India.

xiaomi-mi-3

The Beginning:

Mi started its journey with Mi 3 in July 2013. This was one phone which transformed the Indian Smartphone market. Until Mi3 arrived in India the concept of ‘affordable flagship phone’ was non-existent.mi in india first invite

Xiomi had a different approach to things and had a clear road map in their mind.I can still remember the conversations which Hugo and Manu had with the media and blogger community. Instead of having the launch at a fancy venue, they focused on small group discussions with us to understand the market and our thoughts. They also explained to us what they bring to the table. This approach was something new to many of us and today we know that it was indeed a great way to start.

I loved the honest approach this company was taking. It was a new learning for many of us to understand how they could price the phone at such a great price.

The Mi3 India announcement came with this beautiful theme designed exclusively for the launch which showed their dedication and interest in bringing great products to our country.

mi-in-India-theme

Xiaomi Mi3 also introduced a new concept to Indian e-commerce business – The Flash Sale which was new to us and it became a routine for many of us to sit in front of a computer and wait till the clock strikes 2.00 PM to hit the submit button and buy phones. On a lighter note, the initial sales also did a regression analysis on the Flipkart’s infrastructure which went down many times during these sales.

flipkart-mi3-server-down

“The site saw an unprecedented 250,000 users simultaneously accessing the Mi 3 page shortly after the sale opened at 2pm today. This traffic load was 4 times higher than the heaviest level ever experienced by Flipkart’s infrastructure. At 2pm sharp, when the countdown timer on the Mi 3 page hit 00:00:00, users were able to instantly add the product to their shopping carts (resulting in liquidation of the entire inventory in just under 5 seconds) and were then taken to the payment and checkout pages which they completed at their leisure.” – Flipkart

More Phones to the Market:

Hugo scratching the phone screen
Hugo trying to scratch Redmi 1S using a pair of scissors to show the quality of the glass.

Following the Mi3 success, the company introduced Redmi 1s – which was the best entry level smartphone. The company also partnered with Airtel for the first time to help users experience how 4G can help them with faster internet using the Redmi Note 4G This also got company more traction which till then was only by online sales and branding via Facebook & Flipkart.

By the end of 2014, the company had already sold about 1M phones in India which was a massive number considering the fact, they were just 6 months old in the country.

Mi PowerBanks, which were launched in October 2014 was an instant hit as well. No one could imagine buying a 10,000 mAh power bank for as low as 999 INR.

Mi4, Mi4i and Mi Band:

2015 saw variety of devices coming from the company. The Mi4, Mi4i, Redmi 2, Mi Pad and Mi Band. The Mi Band became one of the most successful product for the company. In a short period of time, Mi also became the Number one wearable brand in India with over 27% market share according to IDC survey, 2016 Q1.

India Wearables Market Share 2016Q1

Days after the Mi4i launch, the company also announced that Ratan Tata, chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons has made an investment in the company. Ratan Tata’s investment was the best affirmation of the strategy the company has undertaken in India so far.

Manufacturing smartphones locally was a significant step which Xiaomi took.  Around August 2015, the company partnered with Foxconn to bring in the first Made in India phone to the market – The Redmi 2 Prime. Further, generating more jobs in India.

MIUI, offering the User Experience that matters:

MIUI helps the performance and offers great user experience along with a variety of options to control your phone. Over the years there have been a lot of customisations specific to the Indian market like directory integration, copying OTP from messages etc.

You never buy a phone just because it has great specs. You buy it for its reliability, design, style and most importantly, the user-experience.

MIUI is more of an experience and gives you similar feel without worrying about the latest version of Android available in market. The company has been very vocal about supporting all their phones. Their latest release – MIUI v8 will be available to every device which was sold in India.

Mi Phones in 2016:

Early this year in March, the company announced the Redmi Note 3 which has seen incredible success for the company in India. They have sold over 600K phones within 60 days of launch. It was quickly followed by Mi5 and Mi Max  which reached India within months of their Global release.

Xiaomi Mi Band 2 Mi Fit App

Around April 2016, Xiaomi invested in Hungama which also got them an exclusive partnership to deliver content to Mi customers.

Earlier this month, Mi India expanded its offline presence with two new partners. Being primarily an e-commerce company, the company has taken its learning from the online model to offline model. As they expanded to more than 5000 offline outlets, it allowed more people to experience Mi products and purchase them easily.

The People behind and their Approach:

Hugo has always been a great guy to talk to.He has been honest and clear in his approach from the very first meet. A lot of people love his presentation style. The attention to detail in his talks is also worth mentioning!

Manu is very approachable as well. In the past 2 years, every-time we met him, he has always welcomed us with a wide smile. Its impressive to see, how he has built his team in India and taken ‎the company ahead in the region. Not to forget, his dedication on being part of the every launch and lending ears to our feedback. 

Mi Press meets have always reminded me of the good old Nokia days. They are not about flashing the technical specs or marketing content with numbers but one gets a lot of  insight by being a part of the detailed technical and feedback discussions.

Xiaomi also introduced the culture of Fans in India. While some companies used fans just to celebrate success or have them at their launches, Xiaomi involved them in testing/building the products as well. For their latest Redmi Note 3, Explorers identified 100 fans and planned a lot of activities and explore the phone through them.

Challenges the Company Faced:

Xiaomi’s journey in India has not been just a bed of roses; they faced many challenges as well. To begin with, the entire ‘Flash Sale’ model backfired when many people started to report it to be fake and questioned the integrity of Flash Sales itself. This also brought a sense of disappointment to the few who wanted to buy a phone but never managed to buy one through these Flash sales. Thereby, tarnishing the brand name on social media.

This was followed by concerns of data privacy as there were reports claiming that Mi devices store data on Chinese servers which could be hacked easily. The company had to step up and convince the users about how serious they were about user data and how they planned to move it out of China.

Now everyone expects Xiaomi to bring every cool product the company announces in China to India. Be it the MiTV, The Rice Cooker, Home Automation solution, Variants, Accessories etc. Unfortunately, its not that easy for the company to get them all here. There are definitely logistic constraints as of now and we hope to see them soon.

Customer Service is also the most discussed topic online. To be honest, every company suffers in that segment. I can’t think of any company other than Apple which excels in Product and Customer Service. But Apple has the luxury to do that. With Xiaomi things also went haywire as outsourced Customer Service companies could not live up to the expectation. Early this year, the company introduced its first in-house customer service offering.

A lot has changed in the past 2 years and its definitely worth looking back what this company has done in the Indian Smartphone Business. They changed the way how many people look at buying smartphones, technology got more affordable and a lot more people got connected. We hope they come up with more ground breaking and innovative technologies that anyone can use and adopt in their lives. We wish Xiaomi a lot of success in years to come, and Well, Happy Anniversary Xiaomi India!

Xiaomi Mi Anniversary