Since entering the Indian market in mid-July, Chinese handset maker Xiaomi has been positioning itself uniquely — from selling its Mi3 smartphones in small tranches exclusively on Flipkart, to getting its Brazil-born global vice president Hugo Barra to interact with consumers directly. Barra, who served in a number of visible roles at Google before joining Xiaomi, has been camping in Bangalore for the company’s new launch in the country — Redmi 1s. The new handset will be put on sale on Flipkart on September 2. In an interaction, Barra talks about the future plans of the firm. Excerpts:
Is there a fear that people who are unable to buy Mi3 will end up buying devices of other firms?
I know this happens, but I also think it is great as it boosts e-commerce.
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Without having any data, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an increase in smartphone sales across e-commerce sites that may be related to the phenomena that we helped start.
We are an e-commerce company and it would be amazing … if we could contribute to the growth of e-commerce.
How is your flash-sale model here different from other countries?
The flash-sale model we have in India is most similar to the model that we have in China where you can pre-book a week in advance.
In Singapore and Malaysia, there is no pre-registration as the demands there are very predictive. We also have a new pre-sale model in Malaysia where one can purchase at any point of time and the phone will be delivered in three-four weeks.
Is there a risk that an open-ended model could have led to more sales?
Yes, it is possible. But we are not here for volumes and are aiming for user satisfaction.
This means we have to take the time to consider the feedback. For example, if we had a 1,00,000 Mi3 units going on sale in the first week, the issues that users here had with the SIM card tray and the plastic sheet on the screen would have been too big to handle.
While we are in this learning mode, we are not aiming for volumes. Once we understand the market well and have built products optimised for India, we will scale up. We still don’t have a large network of service centres or trained customer service executives and that is why we are proceeding slowly.
Do your products give you the confidence to not have large number of service centres, at least in the first few months?
No. The service network has to be in place ahead of the products. We are planning three exclusive service centres by the fourth quarter and we are headed to achieve double the number.
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