Hugo Barra from Xiaomi joins us on stage this afternoon at Startup Asia Jakarta 2014 to talk about Xiaomi and its progress in Indonesia.
He says Xiaomi was “clearly world-standard” when he was considering making the move away from Google’s Android team last year, and he'd been following its progress even before that because of early links between Google and Xiaomi's founders.
“We want to be part of everything that Google does – we want to be early adopters,” says Barra to interviewer Jeremy Wagstaff from Thompson Reuters.
Before discussing Indonesia, the chat turns toward India. Barra says “the community has really embraced us” in India, and the brand now has a number of fans – “Mi Fans” – in the country. Yesterday they had an informal, ad hoc meetup that nearly 70 people came to in a restaurant in Mumbai. He adds that Xiaomi is seeing the same kind of reception in Indonesia.
Xiaomi's global VP says the brand gets a lot of feedback from users of Xiaomi phones and the MIUI OS in new markets. He adds that they listen too. Even if they get an angry or upset email, he says the user is often pleased and surprised to get a human response straight from Xiaomi. It's seeing “higher emotion volume than even in China" among fans in India and Indonesia, he states.
Fans from India & Indonesia are “Open, Transparent, and Sincere,” Hugo says.
Offline flash sales
Barra said that Xiaomi will do offline sales soon in India – sort of. The plan is to do what he calls offline flash sales (mirroring its online sales system) in India for the Redmi 4G. That will be done in partnership with Airtel. Look out for that early next month.
There will be more offline sales in Indonesia, such as the store-based sales done by local partner Erajaya. He reveals Xiaomi once sold 2,000 phones in one day in offline sales in just two stores.
Fewer than five percent of phones sold in Indonesia are sold online, he states, so there are challenges to being focused on ecommerce. “Perhaps we can be a driver” of ecommerce, he says.
He went on to explain that Xiaomi wants to work very closely with the tech ecosystems in India and Indonesia in terms of startups, apps, and services. There are no deals sorted out yet, but he will talk a lot with startups to cook up something. An example from China is the way Xiaomi created the MiBand in partnership with a Chinese startup.
“It makes perfect sense to build in Indonesia,” he says – but that's advice for hardware startups, not a statement related to Xiaomi.
“I have high hopes for manufacturing in Indonesia,” Barra says
Barra advises local startups to get a Raspberry Pi and start iterating hardware in the same way they do with software.
“We can't serve everything from China,” he says, due to issues like high latency and time-outs. That's why Xiaomi opened a data center in Singapore and the US, and might do the same for India.
If "one of the indirect benefits of this move" is that non-China customers feel safer about privacy (avoiding the grasp of China's government), then that's a bonus, he explains. That's a reference to the fears over Xiaomi's online messaging service sending back data to China, which prompted the company to make the service an optional feature for people outside China.