Xiaomi, Not Apple, Is Changing the Smartphone Industry

Xiaomi and Alibaba are the two Chinese companies that receive a lot attention internationally. Why are they so successful and different? Our China experts have insights to share.

xaomi

For starters, unlike Apple, Xiaomi is not targeting premium customers; it’s mostly teens buying those high-quality phones, and hardly at a premium, since Xiaomi’s prices are at least 60% lower. A neat trick. How does Xiaomi pull that off?

To sell high-quality cell phones at so low a price, Xiaomi keeps each model on the market far longer than Apple does. On average, a new version of a phone is launched every 265 days in the industry – down from 345 days in 2009. But Xiaomi doesn’t renew its product for two years. Then, rather than charge high prices to cover the high cost of state-of-the-art components, Xiaomi prices the phone just a little higher than the total cost of all its components. As component costs drop over the two-year period by more than 90%, Xiaomi maintains its original price, and pockets the difference. So essentially its profit formula is the opposite of Apple’s, which collects its highest profits with the introduction of each model and needs to come up with new model after new model to keep those margins up.

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