Xiaomi has often been referred to as the ‘Apple of China’. Not just because their products look suspiciously similar, but because they’ve come to elicit the same level of loyalty as Apple’s products do in the West.
They have, however, been outselling Apple in their native China, and in mid-June 2014 they became the country’s biggest smartphone manufacturer by marketshare. These figures - from Counterpoint Research - claim that Xiaomi have accounted for 15.8% of this year’s smartphone shipments in China.
Yet after a period of rapid growth domestically, and in other emerging economies throughout Asia, Xiaomi are looking to expand into the West after its senior vice-president, Wang Xiang, stated that the company is ‘never afraid of entering developed countries and regions’.
In as early as mid-2014, Xiaomi had become China’s third biggest smartphone provider. Fast forward just over a year, they’re now the third biggest provider in the world, a rise of 227% in worldwide sales on the year earlier. After hitting last year’s target of 61 million, they’ve now set an ambitious total of 100 million shipments by the end of 2015. Despite their success in China, Xiaomi understands that they must expand into other international markets to achieve this goal. Progress has already been made, with a successful launch in Brazil in 2014 - the first nation outside of Asia - and a further deal also being struck with India’s leading e-commerce firm, Flipkart, to sell handsets though them in that market.
South Korean smartphone giant, Samsung, had long been China’s dominant smartphone manufacturer, but has fallen by the wayside in a fairly drastic fashion. The company recently fell behind Vivo - a company which has experienced 250% year-on-year growth - and despite putting more emphasis on its strategy in China, its new approach to the mid-range market - where Xiaomi have been so successful in recent years - has yet to pay dividends.
Although Samsung’s demise in China doesn’t rest entirely at the feet of Xiaomi, there’s no doubt that they’ve had a serious effect. An article in the Economist called this ‘The Xiaomi Shock’ further noting that Choi Yang-hee - South Korea’s telecoms minister - had gone to Beijing to meet Xiaomi’s CEO, Lei Jun. While on the face of it that doesn’t sound out of the ordinary, the Economist notes: ‘Such has been the Korean hubris over the prowess of its chaebol—most notably Samsung, the world’s leading mobile-phone firm—that the scene would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. It shows how worried Samsung is of being upended by what another South Korean minister has called the Xiaomi shock’.
There’s also been murmurings that Xiaomi’s been working on producing its own line of laptops, supposedly fit to compete with the MacBook range in the West. The information, sourced through Bloomberg, states that the company has set its heart on expanding its product range, something which will deepen its rivalry with tech giants Samsung and Apple.
Xiaomi’s journey from nothing in 2010 to becoming the world’s most valuable startup has set a new precedent for rapid success. While its future in China seems to be guaranteed for the time being, proper international recognition will need to be achieved if it’s to rival Samsung and Apple’s worldwide reputation.