Battered by slowing sales back home, Xiaomi is banking on a boom in Indian e-commerce to drive new growth in the coming years.
Xiaomi president Bin Lin told the Wall Street Journal that he believed growth prospects in India were better than in China, and that he hopes to see the number of online smartphone sales in India rise from 30 percent to 50 percent in a few years.
India’s smartphone market is still primarily supported by brick-and-mortar offline sales, though a burgeoning crowd of online retailers and payment platforms are setting the stage for growth in online sales. Platforms including Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal have introduced a new wave of pricing wars to the Indian smartphone market, buoyed by maturing online payment services, including Alibaba-backed PayTM.
In 2015 there were approximately 100 million smartphones sold in India according to IDC, under a quarter of the number sold in China.
Xiaomi’s brand is synonymous with online sales in China. The company is particularly known for their frenzied flash sales, earning CEO Lei Jun the title ‘monkey king’ among Chinese netizens, who playfully criticize him for toying with consumers by making them clamor for new releases.
Online sales have helped Xiaomi keep the cost of their devices low in China, a selling point they’ll seek to replicate in the India market. The company has also localized some manufacturing, recently launching their first ‘made-in India’ smartphone, the $150 USD Redmi Note 3.
Other Chinese smartphone vendors have also taken a dual approach to the market, opening online and offline sales channels rather than betting solely on the e-commerce market. In December Huawei, Xiaomi’s top competitor at home, began offline sales through a partnership with local marketplace Zopper. The same month president of Chinese smartphone brand Gionee said that the company’s survival in India hinged on having a functional offline strategy.