Divide and conquer: Xiaomi launches Mi Ecosystem as sub-brand for its smart home products made by start-ups

Chinese company now much more than just a smartphone maker

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 March, 2016, 7:57pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 March, 2016, 8:05pm

China’s top smartphone maker Xiaomi has launched a sub-brand to encompass the growing number of smart home products made by start-ups it has invested in, including a smart rice cooker that allows users to control the softness of their rice remotely.

Called the Mi Ecosystem, the sub-brand will include products created by the 55 companies that Xiaomi has a stake in.

Internet-of-Things products including Xiaomi’s Mi Air Purifier and Mi Water Purifier will fall under the brand. They were created by Chinese start-ups Zhimi and Viomi, respectively,

The company’s latest move comes as it hopes to streamline its smart home line of products away from its core product lines comprising smartphones, smart TVs and routers.

Under the Xiaomi partnership, Zhimi has sold over 1 million air purifiers, while over 18.5 million Mi fitness bands have been sold by Huami, another company which received investment by the Chinese smartphone giant.

Of the 55 companies, seven have annual revenue of 100 million yuan (US$15.4 million) while two have each exceeded 1 billion year, said Xiaomi.

Xiaomi’s invested companies benefit from being able to list their products in its e-commerce store. They also get to share the same supply chain, marketing and branding resources.

Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun began experimenting with different business models in 2014 to “promote an upgrade in Chinese manufacturing with a new concept of ‘Made in China’ products”, according to Xiaomi.

The company’s latest Mi Ecosystem product, the Mi Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker, is produced by a Chinese company called Chunmi (“pure rice”). It will retail for 999 yuan.

The gadget comes with a valve that can control the pressure to 1.2 times atmospheric pressure - a level Xiaomi claims is sufficient to make the cooked rice more flavourful. It is also Wi-fi-enabled and can be controlled via the Mi Home app.

Moreover, packs of rice can be scanned using the app to identify the brand and point of origin. This will help the rice cooker tailor its cooking method to produce the best results, the company said.

People can also use the Mi Home App to adjust the rice cooker’s settings by pressing a button on their smartphone. The app includes recipes that it automatically matches with the most suitable settings.