Imitator Xiaomi’s India Strategy Is Strikingly Different From Apple’s

And it seems to be working for Xiaomi, the world’s third-largest phonemaker, which has already moved up to fifth place in India within a year of entry. The Chinese startup has a target to sell a million smartphones in 2015 and sees India as a key market to conquer. The imitator is playing the India game very differently from Apple which it apes in so many ways – from its look to its high quality screens, stylish design to user-friendly interface, from cultivating a fan base to the naming convention for its devices.

The Cupertino, Ca.–based Apple simply has not got its India act together even after years in the market and has only recently entered the top 10 ranking by sales. The Chinese startup, already the top phone seller in its home ground, is now targeting India, a 900-million mobile user base and the world’s fastest-growing smartphone market, with a single-minded focus. Xiaomi’s India game plan is very dissimilar to Apple’s which has mostly ignored India saying “larger opportunities” beckon elsewhere.

Today, Xiaomi globally premieres its latest Mi phone in India (New Delhi on Thurs afternoon). That straight off is a contrast to Apple which is known to dump outdated models on Indian buyers at cut-price rates through periodic marketing blitzkriegs. Its new launches, however, arrive in India after a lag.

Xioami has brought its entire line-up of company stars to India for this week’s Mi launch, from its CEO & founder Lei Jun, its president and co-founder Bin Lin and its Vice President Hugo Barra. Nobody from Apple’s top leadership team has ever made an appearance in India – of course, not counting Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ spiritual quest in India as a backpacker in the mid 1970s.

On May 6, the privately-held, Beijing-based Chinese phonemaker (currently valued at $45 billion) will launch its new phablet Xiaomi Mi Note Pro priced at around $500 exclusively in the Asian (India, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Philippines etc) market. The rest of the world will have to wait. That is quite the opposite of Apple’s strategy.

Xioami spends very little on advertising in India and has relied largely on its trademark online flash sales driven mainly through social media. Apple, on the other hand, has dominated front-pages of newspapers with its ads for offline sales of its older and new iPhone models and its monthly payment, or EMI, offerings.

Apple undoubtedly has its share of staunch loyalists in India despite its hefty prices (a contrast to Xiaomi’s similar-looking but vastly-cheaper devices) but they are used to being ignored. Xiaomi, on the other hand, is constantly online-wooing its own fanatical users and flew in a select few to the velvet rope Delhi launch event. Thousands of fans had courted Xiaomi on its Facebook pages in the hope of wangling invitations for Thursday’s premiere.

Xiaomi is setting up an India R&D base in Bangalore, its first such facility outside China, where engineers will customize its Android-based operating system to local conditions. It is talking of a manufacturing facility in the country. Apple walked away from India in 2006 after shutting down its technical support subsidiary in Bangalore saying it was a decision based on a ‘reevaluation’ of its strategy.

Source: Forbes

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