Time was that the Indian mobile phone market followed global trends. For instance, in 2011 Samsung overtook Nokia’s market share in Europe to become number one. The next year, it would pip Nokia at the global level to become the world’s largest mobile phone maker. But it would be in 2013 that Samsung finally dethroned Nokia in India to become the largest player.

For nearly the next five years, Samsung would go on to stay number one in spite of massive disruptions in mobile phone form factors, consumer purchase behaviour and cut-throat challenges from dozens of competitors.

Until January 2018. That’s when two firms that track smartphone shipments—Canalys and Counterpoint—independently announced that Xiaomi had pipped Samsung to become number one for the quarter that ended in December 2017. Just a couple of months ago, IDC had declared Xiaomi a joint market leader with Samsung in its Q3 market share report.

Explore more infographics like this in The Ken -
Visual Stories
Source: Counterpoint Research

By all accounts, this is a massive feat for a company that entered India just three and a half years ago. Per Counterpoint’s analysis, Xiaomi grew at a whopping 259% in India during the calendar year 2017.

These numbers are significant because they signal an inflection point in India’s smartphone market, which has now come to be dominated by the Chinese. As per its founder and CEO Lei Jun, India has emerged as a bigger priority market for Xiaomi than its home country China. While China’s smartphone market declined by 5% in 2017, India’s smartphone market registered a 12% growth in the same period. Thus, India could be pivotal to Xiaomi’s IPO plans, which reports say, might happen sometime in the second half of 2018.

How did Xiaomi manage this?

I, Mi, and my cult

In July 2014, Xiaomi entered India. The company was a bit of an unknown entity back then, even though it was making waves in China. India was a Samsung-led market, typified by its robust distribution network, with retail presence in every nook and corner of the country. Pair with the fact that Samsung sold both smartphones and feature phones, which, even today, continue to dominate the country’s mobile phone market.

Its entry strategy was akin to what Royal Enfield has been doing with its motorcycles forever. Launch a product and don’t ship enough of it, thus creating a feeling of scarcity, and, hopefully, demand. Some call it “hunger marketing”. It sold exclusively online, choosing to sell through its product e-commerce market leader Flipkart. “When we decided to launch in 2014, Flipkart was by far the largest e-commerce platform, with all the necessary capabilities to enable a great buying experience for the customers,” says Raghu Reddy, Xiaomi’s head of online sales.

AUTHOR

Venkat Ananth

Venkat is currently in his tenth year in journalism. Prior to The Ken, he was Deputy Content Editor at Mint as part of the newspaper’s digital team. He also wrote in-depth features on the business of sport for the newspaper. His earlier assignments include Yahoo! (as a columnist) and the Hindustan Times, where he began his career. Born in Mumbai, Venkat holds a Bachelor of Mass Media (Journalism) degree from SIES College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Mumbai and a Master of Arts degree in International Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London. He currently resides in New Delhi, where he moved nearly five years ago.

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

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.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? 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.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. 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?

Just write to us at [email protected] with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.