Home > Lounge > Business of Life > Millennials bring a buzz to the office: Muralikrishnan B

Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone maker and India’s largest smartphone seller, recently announced that it has directly and indirectly generated employment for over 50,000 people in India. In an interview with Mint, Muralikrishnan B., chief operating officer, Xiaomi India, talks about engaging with this growing workforce—spread across manufacturing units, authorized service centre engineers and repair factory engineers. Edited excerpts:

Millennials form 75% of your workforce. Was that a strategic decision?

The average age at Xiaomi is 29. If you look around the office, you will realize that it is because of the millennials that the office feels a lot more youthful, more buzzy.

Our people strategy focuses on being one of the preferred places to work for this generation.

Starting last year we have doubled our focus on hiring campus connections. We started with B-schools and soon we brought it to engineering colleges because we believe when you bring fresh, young talent, they come high on energy, with an open mind and fresh perspective, and they can challenge the status quo.

We also have special hiring drives focused on women in technology. Our management trainees go through an extremely structured nine-month programme, where they do three different projects across three different functions, before they are placed in a function finally of their choice.

These are hiring policies. What makes the young people stick?

We like to build a learning organization, enabling people to upskill themselves at the lower level, to the mid and senior management. This is what will sustain our leadership in the coming years. Over 90% of our managers are millennials.

The biggest focus for us has been on first-time managers. We realized we are growing so fast as an organization, so many people are doing things they haven’t done before. The company needs to invest to help them understand the art and science of management, be more effective and give them the right tricks of the trade.

A majority of the 50,000 people Xiaomi now directly or indirectly employs are not Xiaomi’s corporate employees. How do you engage with them?

The 30,000 people employed in our manufacturing facilities are not employed by Xiaomi, but by our partners. But they are very much a part of the Xiaomi ecosystem.

We need to train them to reflect the ethos of our brand, to ensure the customer is treated with respect, to ensure we close the loop within the time set. When it comes to factory workforce, the big focus is on quality.

We have Xiaomi’s quality managers on the floor, ensuring that the right training inputs are given, monitoring what’s happening on the floor, ensuring that the right process interventions are done.

After sales employees, who are not corporate employees, also have clear, structured training programs, weekly quizzes, bi-monthly refresher, and once-in-three months a classroom training. We are increasingly digitalizing the learning management system so that we can always keep the communication on and keep giving them inputs on how to get better.

About 95% of the employees in your manufacturing facilities are women. Is this reflected in the corporate office as well?

One in every five employees at Xiaomi India is a woman. Fortunately, most of them are also in leadership positions. Heads of legal, of corporate public relations, of our Redmi business, of our Mi.com business, of human resource operations. There are many women in the leadership positions. But I do believe the number needs to go up.

So engaging even with non-corporate employees is a focus?

We want the best of talent to work with us. And we reach out when we see that. One interesting thing we do, and are probably one of the few companies in the world who do this, is that we hire our customers.

Our Mi-Fans, or passionate Xiaomi users, have helped organize themselves into 20 different clubs in India. These are offline clubs, which have weekly meetings; they elect their own president. We take their feedback because, like they say, they are our biggest critics and our biggest fans. Over the years, we have started hiring from them. A Mi-fan, Rohit Ghalsasi, for example, was among the first few hires of the company. He, at that time, was building custom ROMs for Android for Xiaomi phones. He was running our Mi-fans community for the longest time, and today he is the category manager for our audio products.

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