TechSparks 2019: Manu Jain reveals how Xiaomi became a top-selling brand in India with zero marketing spend in the first 3 years

Delivering a keynote address at TechSparks 2019, YourStory’s flagship event, Manu Jain, Xiaomi India Vice President and MD, said the company’s strategies included a product-focused approach, a young team, and garnering ‘Mi fans’.

How can a Chinese mobile phone company that started out in India by selling 10,000 units notch up sales of 100 million devices in just five years? That too with zero marketing cost for the initial three years! Manu Jain, Vice President and MD, Xiaomi India, told the audience at TechSparks, YourStorys flagship event, just how they did it.

In his keynote address on Day 2 of India’s best-known startup conference, Manu Jain said the turnaround came through because Xiaomi always had distinct strategies. These included garnering “Mi fans”, mostly techies, to speak for the brand, and then team leads under the age of 30 years, most without any prior experience in a smartphone company.

“The fresh perspective, clubbed with a young team, has worked really well for us,” said the always-smiling Manu, who attributes Xiaomi India’s success to his “great team”.

He said that in this age the popular MBA theory of the four Ps, Product, Price, Promotion, Place, is flawed “because, in today's world, one thing that is a lot more important than others is the product”. That is why Xiaomi takes a product-focused approach and leverages social media to take its consumer delight story to the masses, he said.

Manu said Xiaomi focused on the quality of the phone, giving customers better hardware and a superior camera. “We don't take more than five percent margin because we believe in a concept called honest price. We cut down all other possible costs, and pass on that benefit to the user, without keeping a profit margin for ourselves,” he told. 

Xiaomi has now been India’s top smartphone seller for eight straight quarters. The Chinese electronics giant shipped 10.4 million handsets in the quarter that ended in June, capturing 28.3 percent of the market share in India, research firm IDC reported in August.

And the reasons, Manu said, were clear. “Innovation, highest quality possible, and honest pricing are factors we look forward to when we launch a new product at Xiaomi,” he said.

Sharing the journey of Xiaomi India, which he said is “much more than a smartphone company” as it tops four non-smartphone categories in India, he says the company has gone from selling 10,000 units five years ago to 100 million devices till date in India, and from six to 25,000 employees. He added that Xiaomi has a total of 10 non-smartphone categories in India and is a top brand in the least four of them.

In a quick chat with YourStory Founder Shradha Sharma on what it is like to lead a Chinese company in India, he said, contrary to the popular belief that Asian companies don't give freedom, Xioami is “built with 100 percent Indian team”, with Chinese colleagues visiting sometimes for guidance.

“We manufacture in India, we do after-sales service in India, we do everything here,” he said.

The toughest part about his job, Manu said, is that it’s lonely. A leader can’t give up even if something goes wrong, because you will always have to ensure that you are positive and stay that way for the team. “You just learn from mistakes and keep moving forward,” Manu Jain said.

(Edited by Teja Lele Desai)

YourStory's annual extravaganza TechSparks brings together the best and the brightest from the startup ecosystem, corporate world, policymakers and, of course, the investor community. Over the past decade, TechSparks has grown to become India's most loved tech and startup platform for knowledge sharing and networking. A big thank you for all your support over the years and a big shoutout to our sponsors.