Jai Mani, Lead Product Manager at Xiaomi India on Innovation

Jai Mani

Xiaomi, the top smartphone seller in the online space, has emerged as the hot favourite smartphone brand among the buyers across the country, which reflects in its market share of almost 24 percent during July-September quarter last year. The wide range of smartphones it has, starting from Rs 4,999 to Rs 35,999, Xiaomi has innovations for everyone. Jai Mani, Lead Product Manager at Xiaomi India, shared his expertise with Haider Ali Khan on how things have shaped for Xiaomi in India and what he expects of 2018 when the company is planning an IPO.

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Xiaomi has been rated as the top mobile shipper in the country last year. What are the key aspects of the Xiaomi smartphones which make them a suitable choice for the buyers in the country?

At Xiaomi, our core belief is innovation for everyone. With this in mind, we create premium smartphones and sell them near cost. This means Mi fans get the best value for their money and our smartphones, like the Redmi Note 4 or Redmi 5A, stand out in their price range.

At the same time we also love exploring new possibilities with smartphones, like the Mi MIX, our first full screen display smartphone, or the Mi Max 2 which is a sequel to our first large-screen smartphone which has no competition in its price range. Our products are also very proudly made in India, and have India-specific features such as the IRCTC SMS view, OTP Copy, and more. We believe the amalgamation of our commitment to India, innovative products, our efficient team and the love of our Mi Fans is what helped Xiaomi build a strong equity within India.

The strength of Xiaomi lies within the sub-10K segment. Is it the segment which contributes the maximum into the overall sales and shipment of the Xiaomi smartphones?

At Xiaomi our core focus lies in providing innovative technology to the masses, and we believe that even in the sub-10K category, there’s a lot of potential to provide an amazing experience. Just look at the Redmi Note 4. At Rs 9,999, you get features usually only seen in Rs 20,000 phones. It’s no wonder so many of our users go for this price range, it’s simply because we have an incredible product at that price. Of course, we cater to different sections of the population, and have phones ranging from INR 4,999(Redmi 5A) to INR 35,999 (Mi MIX 2).

How has been the response to your Android One smartphone Mi A1? Do you also plan to bring out few more devices in the same lineage?

We’ve been overjoyed by the enthusiastic response we’ve gotten to the Mi A1. Xiaomi believes in giving our users choice, which is what led to the creation of the Mi A1 with Android One. We are always open to trying new things but have nothing to announce right now.

Recently, Google announced Android Go for the budget category devices. Will that help you to penetrate even deeper into the rural markets of India?

Mi A1 was our first Android One device, which got an encouraging response. Android Go is a great initiative by Google, and hopefully a lot of people who’ve never been able to take advantage of technology will come on board. We don’t have any Android Go plans to announce at the moment.

Online has been a major source of traction for Xiaomi smartphones last year. Would it be the same in 2018? How has the Mi Stores helped you to get more eyeballs?

Xiaomi is the number 1 smartphone player in the online market with 50.8% market share as per IDC Q3 2017 reports. Xiaomi started building its offline business in January 2017 and as of today, offline contributes to more than 20% of our overall sales. We have a three pronged approach to our offline presence which is based on an Internet+ New Retail model. The three spokes are Mi Preferred Partner shops, Large Format retail partners and Mi Home stores. Mi Home stores are Xiaomi’s exclusive offline retail stores that allow Mi fans to experience and purchase Xiaomi’s latest products under one roof. These stores represent Xiaomi’s “Internet+” and “new retail” approach — combining the internet efficiency of e-commerce with the service and user experience of offline retail. Mi Home stores will allow Xiaomi in India to extend the success of its online Mi.com store to offline retail.

We have more than 1500 Mi PP stores across 15+ cities and 17 Mi Home stores and hope to reach 100 stores by May 2019.

What are the key specifications in a smartphone on which you are focusing to ease the pain points of the buyers?

We are always listening for feedback from our Mi fans. Thanks to this feedback, we’ve focused on releasing devices with great battery life, solid build quality, as well as great performance in the price range.

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Do we expect some more flagships from Xiaomi in 2018 like Mi MIX 2?

We are very proud of how we pushed boundaries to create the Mi MIX 2, our second full screen display smartphone. Safe to say, we have exciting things coming up this year!

How big is the network of service centres you have in the country?

We have more than 750 authorized service centres in India spread across more than 350 cities. More than 100 of these service centres are exclusive to Xiaomi. We have a repair rate of 95% for one day repairs and 86% repair rate for 4 hour repairs across all our service centres. As per IMRB, we are the best in class in terms of service delivery.

The competition in the market is huge. Do you go by it or the consumers?

Would you also like to partner service providers to sell bundled smartphones? We are driven by our Mi Fans, who constantly give us feedback and help us make better decisions.

What would be the dominating trends in 2018 in smartphone market? Could we expect some interesting and industry first technologies from Xiaomi?

For 2018, we are excited to enable more users to get their first smartphone and get on the internet. At the same time we are also committed to our innovation for everyone motto, and create more ecosystem products outside of just smartphones.

It was evident when we launched Mi MIX that Xiaomi is doing a lot of things that others haven’t, whether it’s the use of materials like ceramic, or pushing boundaries in reducing bezel size and changing conventions like screen aspect ratio. We will continue to challenge limits with faster chips, including a new flagship this year that features Snapdragon 845. Our continuing research into AI will also be a big thing for us this year.

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