Xiaomi Inc. is a consumer electronics company based in mainland China. Founded in 2010, the company’s goal is to create an affordable, high quality smartphone that will stand as a direct competitor to Apple.
China has a reputation for creating cheap knock-offs of many different consumer products. As such, Lei Jun, the co-founder and CEO of Xiaomi, has been compared by multiple sources as a knock-off of Steve Jobs himself, interested only in creating counterfeit Apple products. Lei Jun, an extremely successful Chinese technology entrepreneur, encourages the comparison between himself and Jobs. Before founding Xiaomi, he became chief executive of Chinese software manufacturer Kingsoft, cofounded Joyo.com, which was bought by Amazon, and chaired the board of UCWeb, a popular web browser for mobile devices. Lei Jun maintains that his vision for Xiaomi is not to create an Apple rip-off, but rather to defray the idea that China only manufactures cheap, low quality goods by producing truly high-quality mobile phone hardware and software.
Lei Jun has stated that when building his company, he purposely courted employees from large companies like Google, Motorola, and Microsoft, believing that their knowledge and expertise would enable him to take on Apple. Xiaomi’s team includes executives such as Lin Bin, previously vice president of the Engineering Research Institute at Google China. The trend continues today, as Hugo Barra, Android’s vice president of product management, left Google on Aug. 28 in order to become vice president of Xiaomi Global.
Xiaomi sells its high-end Android phone hardware for roughly the cost of materials, and makes most of its money from software, accessories, and services. Currently, the company only sells smartphones to consumers in Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan via their online store. They have no retail locations.
Although still a young company, Xiaomi’s reputation for incredibly fast growth could quickly make it a major global contender. Its unusual marketing tactics, such as selling its products through microblogging platforms, have been wildly successful. Xiaomi’s Mi 2S was the most popular phone sold in China in the first half of 2013, ranking above the Samsung Galaxy S4.
Xiaomi sold seven million phones in 2012, and this year they have increased their sales target from 15 million to 20 million phones sold. Xiaomi’s annual revenue reached the $1 billion mark faster than any other company in China ever has. Today, the three-year-old company is valued at $10 billion, bringing its worth equal to the market value of Lenovo – a computer manufacturer that has been around since 2004.
Hugo Barra’s arrival at the company paves its road to globalization. In a memo on his Google+ page, Barra states: “I’ll be joining the Xiaomi team in China to help them expand their incredible product portfolio and business globally.” He is looking forward to the new challenge, and is also glad that he will continue to be a part of the Android market. Ultimately, with Barra’s contributions, Xiaomi is poised to make major inroads into the global market as well as becoming one of China’s most successful and valuable technology companies.