Where will Xiaomi be without Hugo Barra?

Consider these two events:

Event 1: Last month, Xiaomi's Hugo Barra launched the Mi4i and the Mi Band in New Delhi. The launch was held at the Siri Fort Auditorium. As Hugo Barra said at the event, Xiaomi had been hunting for a large venue. The Mi4i launch was important for Xiaomi - it was having a global launch of a mobile for the first time in India. No other mobile company had done it before.

The Siri Fort Auditorium is one of the biggest auditoria in India. And the hype created before the launch ensured that the auditorium was packed.

The same day, just before Xiaomi's event, there was another mobile phone launch in Delhi that had film stars strutting on the stage. Xiaomi's had none -- except Hugo Barra. And, Barra was a showstopper!

Hugo Barra was greeted with thunderous applause as he took the stage. Not all Vice-Presidents of companies get this response. For the next two hours, Barra held the audience - that included a huge army of Xiaomi 'fans' - spellbound.

When it was time for the price announcement, Hugo Barra taunted the audience, and gave a full minute for the response. After dousing expectations by saying Xiaomi could not afford to cut prices especially with top class components and resolution, he brought the house down by announcing the price - Rs. 12,999 - that beat even the wildest expectations.

Next, when he announced the price of the Mi Band, he said there would be no theatrics - and just flashed the price - Rs. 999. This in itself was dramatic -- this time giving no time for guesses, or even the time to think of a price.

By the time the event came to an end, one of the techies said, "It looks as if we have just watched a Rajnikant movie!"

Event 2: This was a few months ago when Hugo Barra introduced the Mi4, the predecessor of Mi4i, in Chennai. The event was held at a small conference room. As I made my way to the front along with another techie, there was this foreigner who had kept his bag in one of the front row seats. As he saw us looking for seats, he simply removed his bag and kept it on the floor. I did not realise this was Hugo Barra till his name was announced.

After the event, when some techies clamoured for selfies, he readily agreed and even offered to come out of the room so that the background was better. And as we crowded around him for a casual conversation, he never gave the impression that he was the Vice-President of a mobile company that was rising to the top - fast. Fast enough to scare other biggies.

A blogger from Bangalore said this: Hugo Barra's affability was one of the reasons for Xiaomi's success in India. He had ensured that Xiaomi spoke the techie language and also ensured that the tech blogger community got its due recognition. There was also things like Xiaomi offering warranty even for rooted Mi4s. Hugo Barra made a specific mention of this at the Chennai event. Xiaomi is the first mobile company to recognise rooting - a favourite pastime of mobile techies.

What Hugo Barra has done to Xiaomi is to bring it to the global stage single handedly. Of course, the flash sale model too has helped boost the sales of Xiaomi products. A flash sale is like trying for a train ticket under Tatkal in IRCTC. You eagerly sit before the computer at the appointed time and desperately try for the ticket. Here, it is a mobile or a device like the Mi Band.


About sushant gore