Barra

The WSJ Talks to Hugo Barra About Xiaomi’s Business Model and its Success

November 3, 2014 - Written By Cory McNutt

Hugo Barra was a popular Google executive, and like most, he received an offer that he just could not refuse, even though it meant packing his bags and moving halfway around the world to China.  Xiaomi snatched him up with the sole purpose of expanding their smartphone sales from their homeland to around the globe.  The young company was started in 2010 and today is already the third largest seller of smartphones – only behind Samsung and Apple.  Xiaomi sold around 18 million smartphones in 2013 and are on track to sell 60 million this year…and what is so fascinating is that they do not have to advertise nor do they have a retail store – this is all done online via their company website.  Quality is high, overhead costs are kept low and the customer reaps the benefits by getting a high-end device for the price of a midrange device…it is a win-win for all concerned.

The WSJ asked him many questions and Barra, is certainly not shy about answering, and according to him, one of the leading contributors to Xiaomi’s success is treating your customers as if they were a friend.  Just like friends, they talk to their friends – okay, maybe it is really gossip, but it works.  Just like a friend, if your respect their views and take care of them there is a mutual respect for one another.  What is also nice about being a ‘family’ member is that they can be very forgiving of your mistakes. Xiaomi uses their website to conduct an intensive user forum – with about 30 million members and 400,000 posts a day – that covers the entire gamut from product feedback, bug reports, questions, and recommendations for future products.  They also have 10-percent of their users in a program they call beta track where they agree to receive a software update every Friday where Xiaomi tries out new features or a “half-baked, half implemented” idea – these users want to provide feedback.

One other topic they hit on was about how Jony Ive, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Design criticized that other manufacturers designs looked a lot like Apple’s products – he called it outright theft…it was a direct slap at Xiaomi.  Hugo said that all great designs are copied and refined by other companies.  He said, “Point me to a product in our industry that had completely unique design language.  You’re not going to be able to find one.”  He uses the iPhone 6 as an example of a beautiful design that harkens back to HTC’s design language from a few years back – they took it and refined it, making it their own.  He also said that the quick settings found in iOS were in Android phones first, however, Apple took them and refined them to make them better…and that is what they have been doing from day one. Please hit us up on Google+ Page and let us know if you would like to be more of a friend with your smartphone manufacturer…as always, we would love to hear from you.