Success breeds imitation. But recently I was rather surprised to hear Lei Jun, CEO of Xiaomi(Rice) during his interview with Reuters disliked Xiaomi being dubbed as China’s Apple. Come on, every Chinese knows Apple’s success inspired Xiaomi’s imitation while Lei Jun idolized Steve Jobs. On top of that, he said people do not understand Xiaomi; his company is the combination of Apple, Google and Amazon. Well, I thought I had understood his business model before but suddenly I really do not get his vision here. So Xiaomi is becoming this sort of “Cerberus” entity (three headed dog in Greek mythology)?

Truth being told, from the very beginning till this day, Xiaomi has always been a local smartphone company which aspired to tread and follow the glorious path of Apple phone. Of course Apple phone is no longer that cool right now, which might impel Lei Jun to wash hands of it. How fickle!

Lei Jun used to sincerely promise his loyal fans that his company would strive for making high-end homegrown smartphone for Chinese users and would not put any focus on cheap phone. "China needs its own premium brand smartphone with affordable price", such statement filled with patriotic heroism has galvanized many Chinese to purchase Xiaomi phones. Therefore his recent launch of cheap smartphone Hongmi (Red Rice) is rather disappointing for some Xiaomi customers. After all we just realized playing cheap is an inescapable strategy for Xiaomi. I had thought it is probably due to the influence from Apple which will release cheap smart phone as well. However since Lei Jun said Xiaomi is not Apple-like, now I have no idea what to say. How fickle!

Lei Jun said his company is already the third e-commerce company in China. But since when and by what standard, or maybe I am just too ignorant? I wonder whether those big e-commerce players in China would like to punch his face for this aggrandizing speech. Okay, just because Xiaomi is utilizing online channel as sole distributional channel at this stage and has scored well in its sales figures do not necessarily mean you are a huge e-commerce company, right?

All in all, I perceive quite often company only has one overridingly important corner stone to build its whole corporate architecture. For Xiaomi’s case here, smartphone is still its trump card. If Xiaomi maneuvers well, then based on that, it probably can build a grand edifice. But so far Rice is still smaller than Apple (According to Flurry Xiaomi is 6% compared with Apple’s 35% share in ios and Android Chinese installed base); and regarding Xiaomi’s wild ambition of being that three headed dog, please one baby step at a time.   


By Cécilia Wu
English & Chinese Editorial Manager