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BW Businessworld

Connecting Directly With Customers

BW Businessworld catches up with Donovan Sung, director of Product Management and Product Marketing, Xiaomi Global, during his recent visit to India, to discuss the smartphone company’s marketing plans for the country

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Donovan Sung, director of Product Management and Product Marketing, Xiaomi Global

Chinese smartphone brand Xiaomi has managed to sell over 2 million devices in India in the third quarter this financial year, which translates into an yearon-year growth of more than 150 per cent. BW Businessworld’s Ruhail Amin caught up with Donovan Sung, director of Product Management and Product Marketing, Xiaomi Global, during his recent visit to India, to discuss the smartphone company’s marketing plans for the country.

How important is the Indian market to Xiaomi?
India is a very important market for Xiaomi. We have made a lot of investments in innovation of new products in India, as the demand for our products has grown considerably. Moreover, India feels like home to us. We have also moved into non-phone segments such as air purifiers as part of our expansion plan. We are now looking for even greater expansion opportunities in 2017 as far as India is concerned. It will continue to be a key market for us for the time to come.

For a brand that launched in India in 2014, Xiaomi has now reached the third position in the smartphone category, behind only Samsung and Micromax in the Top 30 cities in India. This is when Xiaomi does not spend on ad dollars, unlike its competitors. How does Xiaomi focus on investing in its fan base in India to help with its marketing efforts?
It is a fact that Xiaomi is not a huge spender as far as ads in mainstream media are concerned. One of the reasons for this approach is that our products have helped us create the necessary buzz by virtue of their unique features, and thus we never felt the urge to push our sales by spending big on advertising. Our customers are the testimony of our success story in India. Our core belief is that no amount of advertising will help if the product is not up to mark.

Instead of brand ambassadors, Xiaomi engages with fans. What is the idea behind this and what are your principal marketing objectives this financial year?
This is a very well thought out strategy since Xiaomi has a huge social media following and this has helped us to connect with our customers directly. We have been able to connect with our customers in a very personalised way by relying on digital and social media. Moreover, the word-of-mouth marketing has helped us in a big way. We have never needed a brand ambassador to push our sales, unlike many of our competitors. We have always adopted new ways to connect with our customers and social media offers us the platform, which we have used in the most
efficient way. Our objective is to keep our customers engaged and use all the available options to make it happen.

What role does digital play in your marketing strategy?
Digital plays a big role in our marketing strategy. We have created exhaustive online engagements for our customers, especially on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We believe in controlling our branding through digital platforms, and so far, it has paid off well. As already stated, digital has the ability to strike a rapport with customers in a very personalised way which no other media allows. Keeping this in mind, we have placed a great onus on this medium and will continue to do so.

The newest experiential marketing event for Xiaomi is Mi Pop. Can you explain the concept and how will this move help further Xiaomi’s stronghold on consumers? How is Xiaomi looking to differentiate itself and stay ahead of its competitors?
Our constant endeavour is to offer our customers a differential experience than our competitors. Mi Pop is certified to work with all the Google Cardboard apps and is a reflection of our focus on innovation, especially in markets such as India, which plays a key role in our overall business strategy. The company has been organising Mi Pop events since 2012.Xiaomi’s vision to bring innovation to everyone has disrupted many industries and introduced a range of high-quality products to millions of people. Mi VR Play is an entry-level product that seeks to bring the VR experience to a much wider audience. By opening up an exciting new way for users to experience their smartphones, Mi VR Play is set to make a huge impact in India where VR is still in its infancy.

On the other hand, Mi Live is India’s first live streaming app with locally-sourced content that caters to all hosts by providing every individual a chance to show talent. Mi Live would also support a new VR feature, which allows users to view VR content in the app; it just went live in India and China. Mi Live is the only live streaming app in India to support VR live streaming.

As already stated, we believe in offering genuine innovation and that is what helps us stay ahead of our competitors.

Do you plan to use any traditional marketing methods, such as television or print, in the future for Xiaomi?
As far as traditional marketing methods are concerned, we are not averse to the use of the reach and clout of traditional media, but it should make sense to our marketing purpose too. Currently, we do not have any such plan, but at the same time we are open to the use of the traditional approach, if our business requires so. The basic point is that we are not against the use of traditional marketing tactics if it fits our vision.