Year after year, Xiaomi smartphones sell like hot cake in many countries around the world. In the beginning, they looked like Android-powered iPhone imitations, but they have taken on a life of their own and the world is loving Xiaomi.
Q2 2014 results from Strategy Analytics say that Chinese brand, Xiaomi, is now the 5th largest smartphone maker globally. 5th. And they did it without investing one cent in the US market. Since 2011, I wondered what Nokia and BlackBerry were on about with respect to their crave in recent times to win the US market. See my articles, Does RIM/BlackBerry Need To Win The American Market?, What Shall It Profit a Brand to Gain the US and Lose the World? and One business lesson from the smartphone bloodbath.
Both of them clearly had their strengths elsewhere – South America, Africa, Middle East and Asia. Yet, they invested sweat and blood in appeasing the American smartphone market. And both failed at it. Till today, Nokia’s recent successes have been elsewhere but the US market, though a huge chunk of their energy has been channelled into digging in there. Just imagine if they had spent those resources in the areas of their strength instead. Same goes for BlackBerry.
Emerging Markets will save the world
When low on resources or in a weak position, the ideal move is to focus on your strengths and your easy markets to build momentum. Then, when much stronger, take on the tougher places. This is exactly what Xiaomi has done. By the time the Chinese brand decides to tackle Western markets, including the US, it would be from a new position of strength.
Yes; the huge Chinese market was/is a leverage for them. Still, they followed the principle: use your areas of strength to build momentum first. That’s how to win. Imagine if Xiaomi had spent resources on getting a footing in the US first. We wouldn’t be having this discussion today.
I remember someone responded to me last year with the following statement, “Emerging markets will not save anybody. Let us stop deluding ourselves.”
He should tell that to Xiaomi and a host of others who are blossoming in emerging markets alone. Too often, we underestimate the power at the base of the pyramid. Eventually, emerging markets will save the world. Quote me.
2014: Xiaomi became the 5th largest smartphone maker globally
The number 5 smartphone maker by shipments. And not a dollar invested in the US or other Western market. Amazing. Be sure to do one thing: keep your eyes on Xiaomi for when they will make a move for a global reach. In the meantime, when do we start getting Xiaomi smartphones here in Nigeria? Huawei is here. Lenovo is here. [In MFM prayer tone] What are you still waiting for?!
FYI: the top 5 smartphone makers globally currently are: 1) Samsung; 2) Apple; 3) Huawei; 4) Lenovo; 5) Xiaomi. See the trend? Of the top 5, three are Chinese. China Rising.
2018: Xiaomi smartphones took the 4th spot globally
According to IDC, 122.6 million Xiaomi smartphones were shipped in 2018, to move the brand forward into 4th place globally, pushing OPPO down to 5th place. In that same year, Huawei shipped 154.2 million units.
From this point, Xiaomi has Huawei in its sights and will be gunning to unseat the brand that has championed China’s smartphone prowess for some years now.
2020: Xiaomi became the 3rd largest smartphone maker globally
In Q1 2020, Xiaomi overtook Huawei to take the 3rd spot globally for the first time and has consolidated on that hold into 2021.
The jump to number 3 spot was made easier, in part, due to the Trump administration’s ban on Huawei in the United States. But the numbers speak clearly – Xiaomi smartphones are loved everywhere and they are selling by the bucketful.
In January 2021, Xiaomi smartphones face a similar, yet different threat, as the company has now been added to a blacklist by the US Department of Defense after being classified a national security threat.
This US military blacklist is not as damaging as the Huawei ban. Xiaomi smartphones may still be sold in the country, but the blacklist means that any US investors in the company must pull out their investments before the end of the year.
Xiaomi may have been able to stamp its foot on the smartphone world without licking the boots of the US market, but like Huawei, the future of all Xiaomi phones will be in mortal danger without access to American technology. Let’s keep fingers crossed that it never gets to that.