Great mall of China is Xiaomi's top priority

Xiaomi Global vice-president Hugo Barra says the company’s phones and some other products will eventually make their way to other markets. But high demand and production capacity mean the company has to decide on what makes sense when it comes to r
Xiaomi Global vice-president Hugo Barra says the company’s phones and some other products will eventually make their way to other markets. But high demand and production capacity mean the company has to decide on what makes sense when it comes to releasing its products outside of China. PHOTO: XIAOMI

But tech giant holds out hope for overseas fans drawn to low prices of its gadgets

Are you a gadget lover waiting for Xiaomi's full range of products to arrive in Singapore? Well, don't hold your breath.

The Chinese tech powerhouse makes Android smartphones, headphones, fitness trackers, 4K television sets, action cameras, media players and other products.

The products' main draw has been their low prices. For instance, its 49-inch 4K TV is selling for just 3,999 yuan (S$895), while its Yi Camera is selling for 399 yuan. These items sell for half or even one-third the prices of similar products from other brands.

But when it comes to selling them, its domestic market's needs will come first.

In an interview with The Straits Times, Xiaomi Global vice-president Hugo Barra said the company's phones and some other products will eventually make their way to other markets.

But high demand and production capacity mean the company has to decide on what makes sense when it comes to releasing its products outside of China.

Furthermore, it does not make all the products it sells.

While Xiaomi might have launched the Yi Action Camera and Ninebot mini self-balancing scooter, these products are made in partnership with other companies. Xiaomi is also a major investor in Ninebot, a China-based firm that recently bought Segway, a US company specialising in self-balancing electric transport vehicles.

"We took power banks, some of the audio products outside of China," said Mr Barra during the Xiaomi Redmi Note 2 launch in Kuala Lumpur last Tuesday. The $229 phone will go on sale here on Nov 11.

"We work closely with these start-ups that are part of our portfolio. The biggest issue we have is with manufacturing capacity. These products are in high demand and often, creating a different packaging or SKU is a lot of work and they prefer to, rightly so, focus on their market."

SKU, or stock keeping unit, refers to the final in-store product sold to consumers.

While the product might be the same, its packaging may be different, and it can come with a different power supply.

"Once the company matures, we then take them outside (of China). The same will happen to other products and you will see some announcement of these ecosystem products launching outside of China. We firmly intend to do that," said Mr Barra, who declined to name the items.

That said, he is aware that some Xiaomi products, such as the media players, 4K TVs and air purifier, have made their way to resellers on sites such as eBay and Qoo10.

On Qoo10, the Yi Camera is retailing from $109, while some local websites are selling the Xiaomi 4K TV from $1,050. However, these do not come with any local warranty.

Ninebot has also partnered online retailer Lazada on the Ninebot mini Pro, a more powerful version of Xiaomi's Ninebot mini, for the Singapore market.

Pricing and launch details for this device have not been revealed, but it is expected to cost more than the 1,999 yuan for the Xiaomi version.

"In many of these markets, the product is slightly different, so you have to look closely at the specifications and price. The Ninebot one is an example of a higher-spec product at a higher price," he said.

"I'm not particularly concerned that sometimes our partners go direct, creating a brand perception for us."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 11, 2015, with the headline 'Great mall of China is Xiaomi's top priority'. Print Edition | Subscribe