Xiaomi's Hugo Barra Talks About Selling Movies and Music; Mi 4 in Q1 2015

Xiaomi's Hugo Barra Talks About Selling Movies and Music; Mi 4 in Q1 2015

It has been four months since the Xiaomi Mi 3 was launched in India in July, concurrent with the launch of the Xiaomi Mi 4 in China. At the time, the company had talked about an aggressive rollout strategy, and said that its other handsets, such as the Xiaomi Redmi Note and the Mi 4 would be launched in India soon.

At the launch of the Redmi Note on Monday, NDTV Gadgets caught up with Hugo Barra, Vice President, Xiaomi, to once again talk about how the company has been evolving its business in India, and what lies ahead in terms of both devices and services.

Barra noted that Xiaomi has been pleased with the response to its handsets in India, and revealed that over 5 lakh handsets have been sold so far. "In total, we've sold more than 5 lakh devices, including both the Redmi 1s and the Mi 3, quite a bit more than 5 lakhs," said Barra. "We will announce as we hit milestones but we've done quite well, October in particular was a spectacular month for us, because of Diwali, and because we were able to finally ramp up Redmi 1s."

Each successive launch has also given the team a better picture of what the Indian market is like, he said, which reflects also in the relatively smoother sales for the Xiaomi Redmi 1S, when compared to the very troubled sales of the Mi 3, which caused a lot of backlash on social media and other forums.

With a large number of devices now in the market, and a better understanding of the numbers that Xiaomi needs to bring into the country, the next stage for the team appears to be evolving the services it offers. In its home market of China, Xiaomi offers an app store, the Mi Market (the page is in Chinese) and also sells music and films. This ecosystem has not been replicated in India yet, but Barra talked about building on the growth of the company, and looking for partners to help evolve Xiaomi's offerings - including tackling the problem of requiring credit or debit card payments for all transactions - something not all users have.

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"The top up experience here in India - we absolutely want to make it [payments] a lot easier," said Barra. "Another area where we expect to partner, is content: music, videos, newspapers and other pieces of content. We have to - we can't do everything at once - we still need to have a few more people on the team before we can start designing these integrations with local companies. But that is a priority."

Getting the payments issue resolved will likely be a top concern because of the number of users that have the Redmi 1S - a budget phone even amongst Xiaomi's offerings. Across the Mi 3 flash sales, a total of 1 lakh units were accounted for; after that, sold another 25,000 in a special sale for Diwali. To reach over 5 lakh units all told, the company would have had to sell close to 4 lakh units of the Redmi 1S.

"I think that the Redmi Note could do even better than the Redmi 1s has, over time of course," said Barra. "The fact that we're launching the first truly 4G compatible device in India is phenomenal. I do have pretty high hopes, but, as usual, we're going to start pretty slow, respond to demand and ramp up from there."

With the bulk of Xiaomi's buyers coming from the cheapest devices the firm offers, it is only natural that the company needs to look to adding the other pillars of revenue in India, which it depends on in China as well. With the Mi 4 and the Mi Band going through certification right now, Xiaomi will continue to launch products quickly in India. At the same time, the company is going to be paying a lot of attention to content, and more importantly content that is locally relevant in India.

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