Xiaomi could 'shake up' Brazil's smartphone market
Updated: 2014-04-28 06:39
JACK FREIFELDER in New York(China Daily Latin America)
Phone maker called 'a rising star' among the new competition
Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi announced plans to enter 10 new countries including Brazil this week as part of its effort to accelerate international expansion, a move that could potentially shake up the global smartphone market, according to analysts.
Xiaomi is "one of those quick-rising stars of the Chinese mobile phone market", said Ramon Llamas, a research manager with the International Data Corp's (IDC) Mobile Phones Team.
"There's a lot of competition coming out of China and Xiaomi has been one of those rising stars," Llamas said. "Now we're at the crossroads: where do you go from here?"
Xiaomi announced the news via its Twitter account last week. The 10 countries that the company is going to this year are: Brazil, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, the Philippines, Russia, Thailand, Turkey and Vietnam.
"These are all countries where tele-density is still low and so is smartphone ownership," Llamas said. "It's a pretty well laid out strategy for growth."
"Couple that with the fact that Xiaomi puts together a very good set of smartphones and this is one of the companies that stands a chance to help shake up the worldwide smartphone market," he said.
Llamas said that Brazil represents a good opportunity for Xiaomi because "there are huge expectations for the smartphone market over there".
"Android is the leading platform so that could help Xiaomi in terms of a familiarity with user experience," Llamas said. "One caveat I have is that within the Android space it's going to be that much more challenging to differentiate oneself in an increasingly crowded market."
Will Stofega, program director with the IDC mobile phones team, said, "Brazil has a very robust economy, but the customer base is probably one of the first things that you want to have on your side."
"To some extent, Latin America has not necessarily been paid attention to, but at the end of the day, Brazil is right for someone looking to grow and build a business," Stofega said.
"It's one of those place where everyone would like to hit and maybe use as a jumping-off point for other areas."
"There's a lot of interest in pushing smartphones and new network technologies, and [Xiaomi] shows that there is a lot of potential in terms of bringing a new perspective into an area that has been overlooked," he said.
Xiaomi held a press conference in Beijing last week to discuss the company's latest developments.
Lei Jun, Xiaomi's founder and CEO, said that the first of the 10 new markets to receive Xiaomi products would be India, Brazil and Russia. Lei has also set a goal of increasing sales to 100 million phones in 2015, according to an April 23 report from Bloomberg News.
Xiaomi president and co-founder Bin Lin told Bloomberg News "you can certainly call this an acceleration".
"It's our mission and our belief that this model should be able to achieve some level of success outside of China," he said following the event in Beijing.
Founded in 2010, the Beijing Xiaomi Technology Co (Xiaomi) designs and sells mobile applications, smartphones and other consumer electronics such as wireless routers and television set-top boxes. Much of the four-year-old firm's business takes place online, which has helped its online portal become a popular e-commerce destination in China.
Xiaomi, which introduced its first phone in 2011, set up its international headquarters in Singapore in February. Xiaomi's most popular handset — the Mi3 smartphone — is now on sale in China and Singapore.
The company sells it flagship for about half the retail price of Apple's iPhone in China.
A big part of the company's international push will fall on Hugo Barra, an ex-Google Inc staffer who left the Internet service conglomerate in August to join Xiaomi's Global division.
Barra, who served as the vice-president of product management for the company's Android platform, started working with Google in 2008.
In August Barra told PC Pro — a UK-based computer magazine — that his new job with Xiaomi would involve building Xiaomi's product portfolio and expanding the business globally.
Doug Young, a financial journalism professor at Fudan University in Shanghai and former China company news chief at Reuters, said Xiaomi is "trying to make Barra the face of global expansion".
"[Barra] was featured prominently in the Singapore launch in March/April. But it was interesting that he wasn't featured very much, if at all, in this latest global expansion event," Young said.
"His US roots at Google will give him lots of international connections but he still probably has a lot to learn about marketing a consumer product like Xiaomi's phones — which is quite different from what he was doing at Google,"he said.