Xiaomi Inc is a privately owned electronics company based in Beijing. It sells, among other things, smartphones, smart-TV, laptops and mobile apps. In 2015, it was the 5th largest smartphone manufacturer in the world. It became the largest smartphone manufacturer in China in 2014, pushing Samsung down to a second place.
Xiaomi has employees in several Asian countries in addition to mainland China, such as Singapore, India and Malaysia. The company has also expanded outside Asia, e.g. To Brazil and South Africa.
When Xiaomi celebrated its 5th birthday on 6 April 2015 by arranging the Mi Fan Festival. During this festival, which included online shopping discounts on Mi.com, Xiaomi sold 2,112,010 mobile phones – breaking the record for most mobile phones sold on a single online platform in 24h.
A rabbit wearing an Ushanka adorned with a red star is Xiaomi’s official mascot.
Short facts about Xiaomi
|Company type||Privately owned company|
|Founded||6 April 2010|
|Headquarters||Haidian District, Beijing, China|
|Revenue||US$12.5 billion (2015)|
|Number of employees||Over 8,000 (2015)|
Xiaomi was founded by a group of partners on 6 April, 2010. In addition to Lei Jun, it included Lin Bin ( Vice President of the Google China Institute of Engineering), Hong Feng (Senior Product Manager for Google China), Li Wanqiang (General Manager of Kingsoft Dictionary), Wong Kong-Kat (Principal Development Manager), Dr Zhou Guangping (Senior Director of the Motorola Beijing R&D Center), and Liu De (Department Head of Industrial Design at the University of Science and Technology Beijing).
During the initial round of funding, several large investors bought in, including the mobile processor developer Qualcomm, the Singaporean government-owned investments company Temasek Holdings, and the Chinese venture capital funds Qiming Venture Partners and IDG Capital.
Just four months after being founded, Xiaomi lunched its first Android-based firmware MIUI. One year later, the Xiaomi Mi1 smartphone was announced, a phone that came with the MIUI firmware but could also be equipped with stock Android.
The smartphone Xiaomi Mi2 with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064 was announced in August 2012. It had a 1.5 GHz quad-core Krait chip with 2 GB of RAM and the Adreno 320 GPU.
By September 2013, over 10 million Mi2 units had been sold, and Xiaomi announced two new products:
- An Android-based 47-inch 3D-capable Smart TV.
- The Mi3 smartphone. One version with Snapdragon 800 and another version with NVIDIA’s Tegra 4 chipset.
In 2013, Xiaomi sold a total of 18.7 million smartphones.
In 2014, Xiaomi announced their intention to expand outside China, and that one of their first actions in this regard would be the creation of an international headquarter in Singapore.
The Redmi and Mi3 smartphones were released in Singapore in February and March, and the original batch sold out within 2 minutes.
The Redmi Note phablet (HongMit Note) was announced on 17 March and was made available for pre-order on 19 March exclusively through a mobile application from Tencent.
In April, Xiaomi bought the domain mi.com for an astonishing 3.6 million USD, making it the most expensive domain ever to be purchased by a Chinese company. Afterwards, Xiaomi replaced their old xiaomi.com with mi.com as their official home page.
Late in the year, Xiaomi announced plans to invest 1 billion USD in building its own television content. The company also completed a round of equity financing led by All-Stars Investment Limited, raising over $1 billion USD. At this point, Xiaomi was valued at more than 45 billion USD, making it one of the world’s most highly valued technology companies.
The new smartphone Mi 4 was announced in April 2015. It was first launched in India before reaching other countries.
In the end of June, Xiaomi announced that they would expand into Brazil with a locally produced smartphone named Redmi 2. For the first time ever, Xiaomi smartphones were assembled outside China and marketed outside Asia.
The Mi5 with Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 was launched in February 2016. This smartphone had a 5.15 inch FullHD 1080p display capable of producing 600 nits brightness. It could be purchased with 32 GB, 64 GB or 128 GB storage space and came in black, white and gold cases.
The Mi Max with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 650/652 processor was launched in May. This phone had a larger 6.4 inch FullHD 1080p display with 342 ppi. Examples of included features was the 16 MP back-facing camera and the 5 MP front-facing one.
In July, three Chinese artists became ambassadors of Xiaomi’s Redmi series in China. These three artists were Liu Haoran, Liu Shishi and Wu Xiubo.
According to a report published by GreyB Services in December 2016, Xiaomi then owned nearly 7,000 patent. Of these patents, over 90% had been filed or acquired after 2012. The high number of patents is the result of the aggressive patent acquisition/licensing path Xiaomi embarked on to strengthen its weak patent portfolio in advent of the brands global expansion.
The smartphone Mi 6 with Snapdragon 835 was launched in April 2017. The following month, Xiaomi opened its first MI Home store in India, in the city of Bangalore. A similar store was also opened in Noakhali in Bangladesh.
A hardware company or a software company?
Xiamo CEO Lei Jun has expressed that the company prices their smartphones close to at bill-of-material prices, and that some of the profits comes from selling mobile apps, phone-related peripheral devices, smart home products, themes, and more. According to Xiaomi’s Hugo Barra, the company sees hardware sales as a method for delivering software and services, and is more of a software company than a hardware company. It should be noted however, that when Barra made this claim, 94% of Xiamo’s revenue was still coming from the selling of mobile phones.
Getting into brick and mortar
When Xiaomi was launched back in 2010, it didn’t create any physical stores since it was important to keep overhead costs down. Instead, the products were sold only from Xiaomi’s online store.
Eventually, as the phones proved to be a great success, Xiaomi began opening traditional brick-and-mortar stores as a complement to their online presence. At the time of writing, they operate over 50 brick-and-mortar stores.
In general, Xiaomi avoids traditional advertising and focuses instead on social networking services.
Xiaomi are famous for their limited availability flash sales. These sales helps create buzz for the products, and also ensures that supply doesn’t exceed demand.
Instead of creating huge batches in advance prior to a release date, Xiaomi normally ships out a new small batch of phones every week – typically at Tuesdays at noon (Beijing time). This makes it possible for the company to make sure that their phones are delivered containing the latest software builds, hardware tweaks, etc. At Xiaomi, the process is referred to as “design as you build”.
Xiaomi has built up an extensive online community and frequently asks their followers to try out new products and provide feedback. Xiaomi’s product managers regularly visits the user forums to find ideas for improvements. Suitable ideas can be handed over the engineers very quickly and it sometimes only takes a few weeks for changes go from concept to being included in new products ready to be shipped out.
“When I was with Kingsoft, I had the opportunity to work with Nokia and Motorola, two mobile phone giants of their time. One day, I pointed out to their R&D boss, some inadequacies. After that, they merely acknowledged my input, but never acted upon what I had said. So I thought to myself, if I make a phone, you can tell me anything you wish for it or what’s wrong. If it is justifiable, we will work on it immediately. I’ll give you an update every week and you may even see your wishes come true within a week.“
– Lei Jun, founder of Xiaomi