China’s Xiaomi in talks with US, European carriers in global push

Xiaomi, with plans for an initial public listing later this year, is eyeing more markets for expansion after winning the sales crown in India.

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 6:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 6:01pm

Xiaomi, at times referred to as “China’s Apple”, is stepping up its global expansion after winning the sales crown in India, a market that it took three years to conquer through a mix of flash sales and social media.

The Beijing-based company is expanding further into Western Europe and has worked with carriers in the US for about two years in preparation for an eventual entry. Xiaomi is now in 70 countries globally, including Spain, India, Russia, and Indonesia, besides its home market of China.

In Europe, Vodafone, the biggest carrier in the region, has sought it out for cooperation, said Wang Xiang, Xiaomi’s senior vice-president in charge of the company’s global expansion. For the US, Xiaomi may launch a smartphone model especially tailored to the market, because it is “so important that we don’t want to randomly sell products there”, he said in an interview in Shanghai. The company is in talks with major carriers in the US and Wang said he’s “met all of their executives.”

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Projecting a more international image would help Xiaomi attract more global investors for a highly anticipated initial public offering (IPO) later this year. While its management does not comment on listing plans, the Beijing-based firm is said to have appointed investment banks to work on its proposed IPO in the Hong Kong stock exchange.

Established in 2010, Xiaomi at one time was the world’s most valuable private start-up, worth more than US$46 billion at the end of 2014. In India, the world’s second largest smartphone market, Xiaomi shipped 8.2 million smartphones during the fourth quarter of 2017, giving it a 27 per cent market share and vaulting it to No 1, according to research firm Canalys. The effort ended the six-year reign of South Korean rival Samsung Electronics.

During Lunar New Year in mid-February, Xiaomi opened its first offline Mi store in the Philippines as part of an overall strategy to boost international sales ahead of its much-anticipated public share offering. In Barcelona last month, Xiaomi made its first appearance as an official exhibitor at the world’s largest gathering for the mobile industry. Xiaomi also opened its first Mi store in Barcelona, its third in Spain.

Xiaomi knocks Samsung off its perch to claim top spot for smartphone sales in India

As for the US market, Xiaomi founder and CEO Lei Jun said earlier this month that the company would make its entry as early as the end of this year. In Shanghai on Tuesday, he unveiled a new smartphone model, the Mi MIX 2S, a gaming laptop and an artificial intelligence smart home assistant.

US smartphone sales are mainly driven by the carrier channel. America’s major carriers are AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint, which together account for roughly 90 per cent of all smartphone sales in the country.

“Our biggest challenge is to fit into different requirements from different carriers and Xiaomi doesn’t have enough resources at hand,” Wang said.