The Sorcerer of Smartphones Manu Jain Made India Fall in Love with China's Xiaomi

Jain came as the knight in shining armour and conquered; earning the top spot among the smartphone brands in India

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The first employee of Xiaomi India and a firm believer in innovation for everyone, Manu Jain became a household name in less than four years of taking over as the India head of the Chinese internet company. At the time of Jain’s appointment as the Country Manager to Xiaomi in 2014, the Indian smartphone market was heavily fragmented and strongly offline-based. Chinese smartphone makers had only begun to seep into the hyper-competitive Indian market. Xiaomi wasted no time.

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Breaking into the untapped online opportunity meant thinking faster than its peers, and being unconventional. When the market was filled with competitors who spent majorly on traditional mass advertising, Xiaomi instead actively engaged with its growing Mi Fan community in India. Jain came as the knight in shining armour and conquered; not only the top spot as the number one smartphone brand in India with more than 30 per cent market share currently but also the hearts of many young Indians, who hopped on to the budget phone bandwagon that led to an influx of Chinese smartphone makers’ entry into India four years ago.

Today, Xiaomi aggressively competes with the world’s two largest smartphone companies, Apple and Samsung in India. According to global market intelligence firm IDC, Xiaomi dominates the online smartphone market in India with nearly 60 per cent market share. Jain lauded Xiaomi’s competitive pricing for its success. “A Mi Fan or customer doesn’t have to burn a hole in his/her pocket in order to proudly own and enjoy a beautifully designed, high-quality product with the best specifications. This is the beauty of Xiaomi,” Jain says.

His consistent effort on social media to popularize Xiaomi’s products, about how they are being used by the users, that he addresses as the Mi community, has made him one of the most popular CEOs in India. A usual day in Jain’s life doesn’t go without posting a quirky photograph about his meeting with some of the top leaders of the world. The IIT and IIM alumnus has worked with global companies such as McKinsey and is counted among the finest talents in India. Currently, he is the Managing Director of Xiaomi India and also holds a board position as the Global Vice-President of Xiaomi Corp.

Under Jain’s leadership, the brand has occupied the top position in the Indian smartphone market for three consecutive quarters – Q4 2017, Q1 and Q2 2018 according to IDC, something Jain counts as his high point of the financial year 2017- 18. He is now looking to ramp up Xiaomi’s product supplies and increase its efforts towards expanding its offline footprint as well to strengthen its after-sales infrastructure across India. The recent public listing of the world’s fourth-largest smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi Corp in Hong Kong has further consolidated Jain’s position in the company. Post the IPO, rumours have also been ripe for Xiaomi pricing its phones at par with Apple’s iPhone offering.

Riding on User Satisfaction

Xiaomi is not a brand which chases market share, but user satisfaction, Jain claims. He is motivated by the passion of Mi Fans towards Xiaomi as a brand and its products. He attributes Mi fans to be instrumental in building the company’s success in India since the first day. For a company that spends very limited on traditional marketing, Xiaomi immensely benefits from the word-of-mouth promotion by its Mi Fans. “The ability to do something exceptionally good for our people by offering innovative technology, and revolutionizing the industry by making it accessible to everyone and operating with a highly dedicated and smart team are the reasons that motivate me,” says Jain.

Jain’s true sense of accomplishment comes with the know-how that the brand is creating a huge positive impact in the lives of millions of individuals across India by bringing innovative technology so conveniently to their doorstep.

‘Truly Indian’

Being a Chinese company in India can be an advantage as well as a disadvantage depending upon how a company projects itself. Xiaomi has been quick in addressing this by making way for the adoption of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make in India initiative.

The Chinese company initiated its ‘Make in India’ program in January 2015 and today it has six smartphone manufacturing plants in India. Currently over 95 per cent of Xiaomi smartphones sold in India are made in India, thereby boosting indigenous manufacturing of smartphones and its components. The company also employs up to 10,000 staff, of which more than 95 per cent are females, at its recent smartphone plants set up in partnership with Foxconn in Sri City, Andhra Pradesh and Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu.

“In India, Xiaomi is a company that is truly Indian at heart. We hire local, lead with local leadership and also manufacture our products locally in line with localizing our operations which is what led us to win the hearts of so many Indian consumers,” Jain says signing off, “I believe that this is just the start, and we still have a long way to go.”

(This article was first published in the August 2018 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)

Aashika Jain

Written By

Entrepreneur Staff

Journalist in the making since 2006! My fastest fingers have worked for India's business news channel CNBC-TV18, global news wire Thomson Reuters, the digital arm of India’s biggest newspaper The Economic Times and Entrepreneur India as the Digital Head.