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Xiaomi eyes global expansion as it hires Google's Hugo Barra

Android specialist Hugo Barra's move to China will boost smartphone maker's global growth plans as it tries to compete with rivals

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 August, 2013, 8:11am

After raising US$216 million in its third round of fund-raising in June, Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is looking to accelerate its international expansion plans with the hiring of a top executive from Google's Android division.

Hugo Barra, who had resigned as vice-president for Android product management at Google, would join Xiaomi as vice-president for international business development and Android strategic partnerships, the Beijing-based company confirmed via Twitter yesterday. Online publication AllThingsD had earlier reported Barra's exit from Google.

In separate posts on Sina's Weibo microblog yesterday, Xiaomi founder and chief executive Lei Jun said Barra would start work next month, while co-founder and president Li Bin hinted that Barra could join a scheduled product launch next Thursday.

On his Google+ page, Barra said yesterday: "In a few weeks, I'll be joining the Xiaomi team in China to help them expand their incredible product portfolio and business globally … and am particularly excited about the opportunity to continue to help drive the Android ecosystem."

Recruiting a senior executive from the world's largest internet company marks another coup for three-year-old, privately held Xiaomi, which put its market capitalisation at US$10 billion after its latest fundraising. Its market capitalisation is on par with that of Hong Kong-listed Lenovo, the world's biggest personal computer supplier.

Sandy Shen, Gartner's research director for consumer services, said hiring Barra could be likened to the old Chinese saying "the first step in a 100,000-mile march".

"I think Xiaomi has the potential to appeal to Chinese-speaking communities overseas, but to move beyond that will take much longer and need more effort," Shen said. She added that Xiaomi would be hard-pressed to challenge Samsung Electronics and Apple in the high-end market segment because it "only appeals to price- and fashion-conscious users" on the mainland.

Data from market research firm Canalys showed that Xiaomi moved ahead of Apple to become the mainland's sixth-ranked smartphone supplier last quarter. Samsung, Lenovo, Yulong Computer Telecommunication Scientific, ZTE and Huawei Technologies led the market.

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