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Featured: Hugo Barra, Manu Jain Discuss India Plans At Xiaomi’s Redmi Note Launch

November 27, 2014 - Written By Yash Garg

Instead of holding a single event to address the press and bloggers from all around the country, Xiaomi divided the Redmi Note launch in India 4 stages, with events scheduled for New Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai and Hyderabad, in that order. Yesterday (26th Nov) is when the event at Mumbai took take place, and I paid them a visit, since I don’t stay too far away from Mumbai.

Once the invited gathered at the suburb bar, Xiaomi’s Hugo Barra wasted no time before starting interaction with the attendees. Even though journalists and bloggers had a lot of questions to ask to Barra, he made it a point to exhibit his forthcoming demeanor, and welcomingly took questions. Soon after that, Barra was could be found centrestage, talking about the meat of the matter: the Redmi Note, and Xiaomi itself.

He went on to reveal some surprising numbers, including: MIUI having 85 million users worldwide; Xiaomi’s target of 65k – 100k unit sales per week in India; Four chartered planes that Xiaomi has already hired, including one that’s scheduled to bring a Redmi Note consignment to India.

Soon, the focus shifted to the Redmi Note per se. The phablet is Xiaomi’s first ever, and a special version that supports dual-band LTE has been tailor made for the Indian market, Barra revealed. In a first, the Redmi Note 4G will also be available offline (sort of). It is a model which Barra chooses to call ‘hybrid’, because although it is the buyer that has to visit the offline store to get hold of the Redmi Note 4G, a successful registration online will still be required. Xiaomi has also partnered with one of India’s largest network carriers, Airtel. Naturally, as Barra also revealed later, there will be exclusive deals for Airtel 4G users, but these are yet to be announced. Expect the announcement from Xiaomi in a couple of weeks.

The Redmi Note 4G will be available via a total of 100 stores though 6 Indian cities. These stores, dubbed ‘Mi Zone’, will be run and managed by Airtel. Besides having special retail stores for the Redmi Note 4G, Xiaomi will also be offering the device with pre-installed aftermarket keyboard apps, Fleksy and SwiftKey. Barra suggested that these apps allowed for greater usability, and also made better use of the 5.5-inch screen on the Redmi Note, which he personally demoed for me.

The first Redmi Note sale in India is scheduled for the 2nd of December, when the Redmi 1S will be given a breather. Barra mentioned that Xiaomi’s looking at getting close to 50,000 units on the first sale, which isn’t by any means a small number. Speaking of the number of units, Barra also emphasized the fact that how Xiaomi was betting on, at most, 10,000 units/week and how the market totally defied that. The Mi 3 wasn’t particularly a success distribution wise, although it totally killed it on VFM terms. When I asked Barra about how they planned to tackle the demand with phones like the Redmi Note, which is not only larger in size than the Mi 3 (which also happens to be a general market preference), but also considerably cheaper, Barra mentioned that Xiaomi had now more than 4 months of data to study the market, which they would use to make sure supply and demand don’t drift too far apart.

Although Xiaomi would be launching the Redmi Note, the Redmi 1S remains to be its most successful phone in India. In fact, the Barra-Jain duo revealed, that the company sold 1,50,000 on one single day on a sale day in October. And that is perhaps why the phone will not be discontinued even though there’ll be the Redmi Note to contend with. There’ll only be a gap of 2-3 weeks before which the Redmi 1S goes on sale yet again in the Indian market.

When I asked him about future, higher end devices like the Mi Pad, Mi 4 and even the Mi TV 2, and the launch timelines of the same for the Indian market, Barra mentioned that getting any wireless device certified was a much longer and and strenuous process in India as compared to other markets, which is why launch could take some time yet. Upon being pressed for a launch date, Barra said that it could take about 6 months for Xiaomi to bring the Mi Pad tablet to India, while the Mi 4 would be coming January next year. On being questioned about the Mi TV 2, Barra didn’t seem as enthusiastic as his usual self, and mentioned that the company was still looking for content partners.