Xiaomi eyes Indian mobile technology start-ups for investments, tie-ups

Xiaomi looks to invest in Indian mobile technology start-ups and forge partnerships with local content creators to create buzz around its products


Xiaomi recently tied up with mobile wallet company Mobikwik to allow its 1 million Indian users to use SMS-based payment service for free. Photo: Bloomberg
Xiaomi recently tied up with mobile wallet company Mobikwik to allow its 1 million Indian users to use SMS-based payment service for free. Photo: Bloomberg

Hyderabad: Smart devices maker Xiaomi Inc is scouting the Indian market to invest in mobile technology start-ups and to forge partnerships with local content creators as part of its strategy to build an ecosystem around its products in the country.

The Chinese firm sells smartphones, tablets, fitness bands, power banks and Bluetooth speakers in India. It has plans to introduce its brand of air purifiers and smart television sets in India.

But the TV launch might take some more time because the company is yet to finalize its content strategy, according to Manu Jain, India head of Xiaomi.

Xiaomi’s investment in digital media firm Hungama Digital Media Entertainment in April was a step towards building its services ecosystem in India, Jain said. The company led a $25 million round in Hungama in its first investment in the country.

Two Hungama apps, Hungama Music and Hungama Play, will be made available, free of cost, to Xiaomi users for 12 and three months, respectively.

Xiaomi recently tied up with mobile wallet company, One Mobikwik Systems Pvt. Ltd, to allow its 1 million Indian users to use Mobikwik’s SMS-based payment service for free.

In China, Xiaomi’s home base, the company has incubated or invested in 55 promising hardware and content companies. Some of these companies have developed new product categories such as air purifiers, water purifiers, electric cookers, scooters, and even drones, while others have created software and content that complements Xiaomi’s other products.

At least 20 of the 55 companies have launched a product and four of them have achieved the so-called unicorn status, or start-ups with a valuation of at least $1 billion.

“We will find the best people in the world who can do it and we will incubate them or buy stake in them,” Jain said.

Xiaomi, the world’s second most valuable start-up and China’s biggest unicorn, is exploring similar opportunities in India. It is looking at “multiple” software and technology companies, Jain said.

“In India, I don’t see many good hardware companies right now,” he said. “We are definitely looking at mobi-tech [mobile technology] start-ups to make investments.”

Eventually, the company plans to introduce most of its products in the Indian market and will actively look at Indian start-ups that complement its devices.

Next in line is air purifiers, which given the high pollution levels in most Indian cities, is a category Xiaomi sees promise in.

“We think smart air purifiers are a great category to launch in India,” Jain said. “We think we can launch air purifiers and completely own this space in the country.”

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