Xiaomi, one of the leading mobile Internet companies in China, yesterday announced its foray into the Indian market with a range of flagship Mi smartphones and an exclusive partnership with e-commerce marketplace Flipkart for sale and delivery of these products across India.

The first Mi smartphone that Xiaomi has launched in India is the Mi 3 priced at INR 13,999 (US$233 approx). Mi 3 will go on sale on July 22 for which the pre-registration is open at Flipkart. In addition, Xiaomi has announced that it will launch Redmi 1S and Redmi Note in August in India. Xiaomi Mi 3 has a 5-inch Full HD display and runs on quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor.

Talking about the India foray, Bin Lin, Co-founder and President, Xiaomi, said, “We see India as a huge opportunity for us and are excited about bringing Mi products to this market. Just like in our other markets, we will strive to provide users with incredible value, and the best customer experience possible.”

Xiaomi has also set up 35 plus service centres across top 20 cities, with dozens more to come, across India including two exclusive Mi service centres in Delhi and Bangalore to ensure a robust after-sale service and a hassle-free customer experience.

Commenting on bringing their flagship device to India, Hugo Barra, Vice President, Xiaomi Global, said, “Mi 3 is the fastest Mi phone ever. We are very excited to offer one of the world’s most powerful smartphones in India at an incredibly affordable price point of USD 233 (INR 13,999). We hope Indian users will love MIUI, our Android-based operating system. We have done a lot more testing in India than in any other markets and we will be testing as we go.”

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One of the best features of Xiaomi MiUi interface is the variety of themes offered by it. Currently, the themes store available in India will only feature free themes.

The Apple of China worries Indian smartphone players
The launch of Xiaomi has heated up competition in the already crowded smartphone market in India where local players such as Micromax, Karbonn and Lava account for over 31 per cent share. With the affordable price range, Xiaomi is in direct competition with mid-segment devices of Samsung, Motorola and Blackberry. The specifications of the phone are as good as the premium range devices of Samsung, Sony and local brands such as Micromax.

Xiaomi’s Mi3 is a bigger threat to the devices in the high-end range as it offers similar or better features at an extremely affordable range. It may not grab a significant share from the global brands so soon but it will definitely eat the shares of players such as Micromax, Karbonn, Lava, Intex and others.

Xiaomi has seen quite a lot of success in markets like Singapore, with handsets being sold out in a matter of few minutes. Its Redmi phone was out of stock in eight minutes during a limited-time sale on its e-commerce website, while all Mi3 phones were grabbed in just two minutes.

No heavy marketing push
The target audience for the brand is youth but the company is not looking to spend much on advertising and marketing. It aims to reach out to consumers through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, technology influencers and enthusiasts.

Talking about the company’s India operations, Manu Jain, India Operations Head, Xiaomi, said “We are looking to provide the best in class experience to our Mi fans in India. We are starting with 35+ service centres across top 20 cities, a hotline that operates 7 days a week, and a vibrant Mi India Facebook page. Our partner Flipkart, with its world-class technology and customer service, will be key to providing this experience.”

People in India still refrain from buying Chinese devices and the brand is well-known only in tech circles hence in order to capture consumer’s attention there should have been more emphasis on marketing and advertising. The brand has also clearly pointed out that it is not looking for any celebrity endorsements in India.

Sole dependence on the online model
Xiaomi also plans to sell its phones exclusively through an online model through partnership with Flipkart. Commenting on this partnership, Flipkart’s Co-founder & CEO, Sachin Bansal, said, “This partnership is a natural progression of our promise to bring world-class products to our customers. We are a technology-focused company with innovation as part of our DNA – and this complements what Xiaomi stands for globally.”

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The company believes that selling online can save 20-30 per cent of channel costs and distribution hassles. Motorola adopted an online-only selling policy in India and Bansal explained, “Moto E saw a tremendous response on the online platform and this reinforces the fact that consumers in India are getting very comfortable in buying online. There is also a replacement guarantee offered by Flipkart which gives a lot of comfort to online shoppers in India.”

It might be a difficult task for Xiaomi to flourish in India with only one mode of selling where large volumes of local brands are stocked in physical outlets. However, only time will tell whether Xiaomi will be able to fly-off shelves in India like other markets with less marketing efforts, online-only selling model and affordable pricing.