Fast-rising Xiaomi, the fifth largest smartphone maker in the world, has launched its latest high-spec device in India – its first phone to debut outside of China – and announced Tata Sons’ chairman emeritus as a new investor.
Ratan Tata, an iconic businessman in India, has acquired an undisclosed stake in Xiaomi, the vendor’s first investment from an Indian. Earlier in the year Xiaomi raised $1.1 billion in a round of funding from new investors as well as existing shareholders, which it claims values the firm at $45 billion.
Xiaomi’s global VP Hugo Barra posted a tweet saying: “We’re really excited to announce our newest Xiaomi investor.”
Lei Jun, the company’s founder and CEO, told the Economic Times that India is its most important market this year and it plans to become an “Indian company” by establishing a startup, with local R&D and manufacturing. It aims to be the county’s largest handset maker by 2020.
On Thursday in New Delhi the company introduced the much-awaited Mi 4i, a 5-inch 4G smartphone with a full HD Sharp/JDI display. It weights 130g, runs on Android 5.0 and features a Snapdragon 615 octa-core 64-bit processor, dual SIMs and a 13-megapixel camera. Its retail price is INR12,999 ($205).
Lei said a team is working on setting up manufacturing and it is in discussions with partners and two state governments for the project, which could take up to two years and would initially assemble its devices, the Times reported.
The four-year-old Chinese smartphone maker said in March it plans to begin local production in the next 12 to 18 months in India, which it described as a “hugely important” market for the company and its biggest market outside China.
India is now the world’s third largest smartphone market, but growth was up just 6 per cent year-on-year in Q4. The 22 million smartphones shipped during the quarter represented 32 per cent of total handset output, according to Counterpoint. Samsung managed to hold on to the top position in the smartphone segment, with a 27.4 per cent share, followed by domestic star Micromax with a 19.5 per cent share.
Xiaomi’s smartphone shipments in India expanded almost 250 per cent quarter-on-quarter in Q4, but the vendor failed to make it to the top-five smartphone vendors during the quarter.
The company said it plans to sell 100 million phones this year as it expands outside of China, after shipping 18.5 million smartphones in Q4 – a 230 per cent increase from Q3 2013. Its global market share jumped from 2 per cent to 5.1 per cent during that period, according to Gartner.