Last week, 700 stores across the southern states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka started selling the Redmi Note 4, Xiaomi’s fastest-selling phone so far. This week, another 1500 stores in Delhi, Jaipur and Chandigarh will join in too.

Xiaomi is in a hurry.

For a company that entered India in 2014, Xiaomi’s growth has been scorching. In just two years, it claimed to have hit one billion dollars in revenue. This January, it said it sold over one million of its Redmi Note 4 smartphones in just 45 days of its launch.

“Two years back, if you had asked me, whether we would cross a billion-dollar revenue in India in two to three years, I would have laughed at you,” says Manu Jain, who joined Xiaomi as the India head and its first India employee in May 2014. “We never imagined to be this successful when we started.”

Jain is now doubling down further, on offline stores. Because even though 90% of Xiaomi’s sales comes from online, 70% of Indian smartphone sales still takes place in offline stores.

Then there’s OnePlus. The online-only company with a rather passionate following (no mean feat in the crowded smartphone market) recently signed on Bollywood’s superstar thespian, Amitabh Bachchan, for its new campaign for its flagship OnePlus 3T smartphone. Easily among the most expensive and most desirable brand endorsers in the country, Bachchan is said to charge around Rs 5 crore for a one-year contract.

While Xiaomi and OnePlus had created enough buzz using fan clubs and user communities even before entering India two and a half years ago, there were other Chinese companies that made quieter entries.

OPPO, Vivo and Gionee entered India rather quietly in the second half of 2014 and started racking up market share by selling premium-looking phones at relatively low prices.

Today, the Chinese smartphone firms command about 50% of the market share in India while covering 40-50% of the country’s geographical area. And there’s no sign they’re about to slow down.

The Chinese squeeze

When Xiaomi entered India in 2014, most of the large Indian mobile companies dismissed it.

“Everybody we spoke to that time, said it was going to be a big disaster because smartphones were traditionally sold offline,” says Jain. “Initially, we got only 10,000 units, because 10,000 people were following us on Facebook. We thought at least they would buy our phones.”

At that time, Samsung had recently launched its flagship smartphone Galaxy S5 in India at a price of around Rs 51,000. So Xiaomi launched its Mi3 smartphone, with somewhat comparable technical and hardware specifications, but at Rs 14,999, less than one-third the price of Galaxy S5. Value-conscious Indian buyers crashed the site of Flipkart, where the Mi3 was being sold via a flash sale.


Moulishree Srivastava

Moulishree has over five years of experience in journalism. In her previous assignment, she was a Principal Correspondent for Business Standard where she wrote on technology and telecom. Prior to Business Standard, she was at Mint, where she wrote on various subjects — tourism, hospitality, real estate, science, cyber security and technology. Moulishree graduated as an engineer in Information Technology from Chandigarh Engineering College. She worked as a software engineer briefly but then took a detour and got her journalism degree from IIJNM, Bangalore. She will be based in Bangalore and you can reach her at her

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at detailing the error or queries.