China's low-cost smartphone maker Xiaomi launched a foray into U.S and Europe this week with an online accessories store, but don't expect its handsets there anytime soon.
"Launching a smartphone in the U.S. requires a huge amount of effort. We've got to set up an after sales support centers across the country – not to mention marketing," Hugo Barra, the company's global vice president, said in an interview with CNBC on Wednesday.
"With engineering, you have to customize the antenna design, with a huge amount of testing. This process is quite time consuming," he added.
It's going to be slow going for the smartphone maker that took the mainland by storm. Xiaomi held a 13.1 percent share of China's smartphone market in the first quarter, according to Counterpoint research, making it the country's second largest smartphone vendor behind Apple, which held a 15.7 percent share.
On top of getting the right infrastructure in place, Xiaomi also needs to ensure its patents are in order. As a young company, its portfolio of patents is small compared with other companies.
"Patents vary widely across countries. A new company in this space has to systemically and methodically license patents they need depending on which markets that they are in," Barra said.
That's why Xiaomi's online store for Western consumers will be limited to low-cost accessories such as fitness bands, headphones and battery cells for now.
Even without offering handsets, Barra is optimistic that the site -- which went online in the U.S. on Monday and in France, Britain and Germany on Tuesday – will be well received.
"It's a bit of a tease and that's the intention. We want consumers in the U.S. and some of these European countries to experience our brand, see our products and play with them," said Barra.
Launching the online store is part of its broader strategy to establish its foothold in more established markets as demand in its home market begins to cool.
To be sure, just because the company isn't yet selling its phones in the West doesn't mean enterprising sellers haven't found a way to get the handsets there, with sites such as eBay offering access to units.
Xiaomi is not alone in its Western expansion. A large number of companies from China have expressed an interest in growing their presence overseas.
Established players such as electronics giant Lenovo and mobile infrastructure titan Huawei are continuing to invest in expanding their products into the U.S.
Meantime, Chinese company LeTV recently revealed plans to bring its smartphones and smart TVs to the U.S. later this year and to launch a video streaming service for Chinese-speaking Americans.