Leading Xiaomi’s Global Expansion
Hugo Barra Vice President, Xiaomi Global
What challenges do you expect to face setting up operations in Singapore? Being an e-commerce company with a high touch relationship with our customers, we had to set up our logistic capabilities. We are working with UPS and FedEx to ship our products directly from Shenzhen to consumers.
Setting up our call centre and walk-in repair centre were also challenges. Finding the right partner for the repair centre and training of the staff took a lot of time. Building a social media presence from scratch on Facebook for Singapore is another key challenge.
As Singapore is our first non-Chinese market, we spent a lot of effort localizing the products since MIUI was custom designed for users in Greater China. There were some features that we had to tweak, add and remove.
Overall, it was very challenging as we wanted to establish our operations faster than any other company would and we did it in less than two months with a very small team. As Xiaomi expands, is the model of collecting feedback from users and issuing weekly updates still sustainable? It is absolutely sustainable. We are going to have a single international build and into that build, we will have features that are locale-specific. I expect most features to be global, and we are going to make certain tweaks and launch certain features for particular markets.
We may want to test a new feature in a market and then see the response before making a decision if it is ready for everyone. We are going to experiment a lot and we try things all the time. At times, we tried and failed miserably. We will have to correct them quickly. Has Xiaomi ever considered venturing into the tablet space? We certainly have considered it, but we have no announcement on this. We are thinking of tablets and many things. We only launch a product when we know we are going do a really good job at it. Until we get to a point where we have something ready, we are not going to launch it.
For example, Redmi is the second generation we built. We actually built another device all the way to the end, but decided it was not good enough and scrapped it. How do you describe the experience of working in Xiaomi for the past few months? Xiaomi is a new kind of company that the world has not seen yet. You can describe it in many ways, but the fact that the company has 8 founders is actually quite spectacular. Each of the founders is running a startup within a collection of startups, and they run independently as fast as they can.
I have never worked in a company that can build hardware at the speed of software, and never seen a company in the world that can listen to millions of people and act on their feedback. I am very impressed and shocked in a good way, and all my expectations have been exceeded. What are your thoughts on Google selling Motorola Mobility to Lenovo? I do not have specific thoughts on it, but I do know that it was challenging for Google to operate in a way where they could potentially be competing with other partners. I am not sure of exactly why they did it, but Lenovo acquired a pretty amazing asset as the new Motorola team is very strong.