For the first time ever, the world is talking about a Chinese brand. That brand is upstart phone-maker Xiaomi. Speaking today at our Startup Asia Singapore 2014 event, Hugo Barra, Xiaomi’s VP of international, explained how the young company approaches its unusual ways of manufacturing and retailing.
Barra also revealed that Xiaomi will launch in Malaysia “in the next two, three, or four weeks.” An exact date will be revealed shortly.
So far, Xiaomi has launched outside of mainland China in three areas – Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore.
After a popular public event for fans in Taiwan proved a hit, Xiaomi will do the same thing in Singapore next.
Personal voyage for Barra
— PJ Kershaw (@pjkershawnz) May 8, 2014
Xiaomi is “bound to change the world in significant ways” that are “comparable to building the Android platform,” Barra explained to interviewer Willis Wee – and that’s why Barra took up the life-changing move to China (departing from heading the Android crew at Google) to work with Lei Jun and the team at Xiaomi. “They’re insanely smart,” says Barra of the core Xiaomi crew.
With eight co-founders, Xiaomi feels like several startups, Barra explains, with each co-founder pushing forward their assigned area. That’s how Google works as well, he adds.
Barra explains in detail about how Xiaomi effectively iterates weekly, and that’s possible because of the way the gadget-maker sells phones in batches, mostly via online flash sales once the batch is ready to ship. So Xiaomi makes minor changes to the hardware after listening to both internal and public feedback. Users submit one million items of feedback per day, Barra says. Those relate to hardware and software, including bugs related to MIUI, Xiaomi’s Android skin and software ecosystem.
Barra says this kind of iteration and user-suggestion implementation is truly unique.
Xiaomi sells its phones and other gadgets – such as its smart wi-fi router and smart TV set – at cost price, undercutting both global and Chinese brands. Why sell so low? “It only seems fair to sell at cost” to consumers because gadgets “only get cheaper,” Barra explains. “It’s a super, super honest way of selling that people appreciate.”
This is part of the coverage of Startup Asia Singapore 2014, our event running on May 7 and 8. Follow along on Twitter with the #startupasia hashtag.