Xiaomi to launch six smartphones in India this year
Bengaluru: Chinese smartphone and appliances maker Xiaomi Corp. plans to launch at least six smartphone models in India this year, open 100 exclusive stores, release more new product categories in the near term and build out a big, non-smartphone business from its new range of televisions.
In an interview, Xiaomi global vice-president and India head Manu Kumar Jain said the Chinese firm, which has been a prolific investor in India’s rapidly-growing start-up ecosystem in recent times, will look to write a mix of small and large cheques to acquire stakes in software and internet start-ups over the next 12 months, while increasing the pace of its investments over the next few years, as part of its broader strategy to invest $1 billion in Indian ventures.
“Our journey in India has just started. We can achieve a lot more on every front,” said Jain, who was elevated to a global role last year.
Under Jain’s watch, Xiaomi has crossed $1 billion in revenue in India and is set to cross the $2-billion mark soon, although Jain declined to give a time frame on when the company expects to hit that milestone.
Jain did not specify how many start-up investments the company will make over the next 12 months, but the company’s five-year target suggests the Chinese firm will look to back an average of nearly two dozen start-ups annually over the next 4-5 years.
So far, Xiaomi and its sister company, Shunwei Capital, has backed 10 internet start-ups in India, with the most recent being investments in ShareChat and KrazyBee.
“I really hope we can increase the pace (of investments) and invest in a lot more companies,” said Jain.
“India is changing drastically. We really believe that India will become hugely digital in the next five years and we want to help promote that. We would want to increase the pace of investments to support these Indian companies. In India, we started with smaller investments...but if there’s a need, we can do bigger ticket sizes.”
In a November interview, Xiaomi founder Lei Jun had pledged to invest at least $1 billion in 100 Indian start-ups over the next five years to create an ecosystem of apps around its smartphone brand.
The company has indicated it will back early to mid-stage start-ups in spaces such as content, fin-tech, hyperlocal services and manufacturing.
Xiaomi’s start-up investments in India are part of a broader trend of an influx of massive Chinese investors in the Indian internet economy, with Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings leading the way.
Xiaomi, which showcases a number of its products at its own stores, is currently contemplating a number of new products in India, but is yet to take a final call on whether to introduce those products in India, given the unique nature of the Indian market.
“We have smart scooters, we have smart cycles, smart water purifiers, weighing scales, smart cookers, smart shoes, etc.—people keep talking about these products and asking when we will launch them in India. We don’t know at the moment whether those products will do well in India, firstly, and secondly, even if we were to launch them for India, how would we customize them for Indian conditions?,” said Jain.
India is Xiaomi’s biggest market outside China. In China, it has launched a wide variety of products including televisions, smartphones and air purifiers, among other things.
Xiaomi has also tripled its headcount in India in the past year and plans to grow at a similar pace in the next 12 months.
For now, Xiaomi is focusing on building out a big business from non-smartphone products to reduce its reliance on smartphones—such products include its new range of high-definition televisions, which it has just launched in India.
The company currently has 26 exclusive stores in India, with a few hundred more stores through franchise partners.
“Our aim is to launch many more product categories in India—we already have 7-8 categories in India. If you look at our product line-up in India right now, we have phones, smart TVs, fitness bands, power banks, smart routers, smart air purifiers, and few other smaller categories like t-shirts and backpacks, and some smaller products like audio players,” said Jain.
Xiaomi, which entered India in 2014 and tripled revenues from India over the past 12 months, accounted for 25% of smartphone shipments in the December quarter, according to research firm IDC—making it the biggest smartphone vendor in India, ahead of Samsung.
While the company has emerged as the top smartphone brand in India over the past two quarters, Samsung remains the biggest smartphone firm in India on an annualized basis.
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