Xiaomi is coming – smartphone start-up to expand beyond Asia to rest of world

5 Jan 2015

Four-year-old Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has reported revenues of US$12bn after selling more than 61m smartphones last year. The company plans to sell 100m devices in 2015, fuelled by an international expansion.

The inexorable rise of Asian smartphone makers has been astonishing to observe and none more so than that of Xiaomi, the four year-old start-up that is now the world’s third largest phone maker and which has revealed plans to expand beyond Asia and into Eastern Europe and South America.

In recent weeks Xiaomi completed a US$1bn funding round led by Hon Kong’s All-Stars Investment Limited that valued the company at over US$45bn, making the company one of the most valuable tech companies in the world.

Xiaomi, which was founded in 2010, is a play on the Chinese word for “millet” and the branding suggests the single grain of rice of a Buddhist is a great as a mountain. The company scored a major coup in 2013 when it hired senior Google executive Hugo Barra to spearhead its international growth.

In latest figures released by CEO Lei Jun Xiaomi has confirmed that it sold 61.1m phones last year, yielding revenues of US$12bn.

This is up from 18.7m devices sold in 2012 and 7.2m in 2012.

“That’s 227pc and 135pc growth respectively from the year before,” Jun said.

The East is rising

Gartner confirmed last month that Xiaomi is now the world’s third largest smartphone maker. The company last year also branched out into smart TVs, wearables and tablet computers.

At the heart of Xiaomi’s success is its sub-US$150 family of Redmi devices and sub-US$300 Mi smartphone devices.

“We are a company that the technology industry has never seen before,” Jun wrote in an open letter to Xiaomi’s 5,000 employees on Chinese social network Weibo (translated here in English).

It is understood that the company plans to grow hardware sales to 100m devices in 2015 and a new addition to the Mi family will be unveiled on 15 January.

Key to its plans for 2015 will be an expansion into other markets, understood to begin with entries into Russia and Brazil at first. The company sold 1m smartphones in India in just five months.

“This year, we will enter even more overseas markets,” Jun said.

“We believe everyone in the world would appreciate the opportunity to enjoy technology innovation. Thus we remain fully committed to our global business.

“Xiaomi has come a long way since we started from scratch in April 2010. Innovating through our products and our business model, we have created a miracle. From now onwards, every step we take is writing a new chapter in the history of the industry. We look forward to your continuous support in 2015.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years