“We’ll Be Going a Lot More Aggressive on the Mi Brand in 2020,” Says Xiaomi’s Raghu Reddy

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If you are someone who’s been keeping track of Xiaomi phone launches in India, you would know that the company started its India journey with the Mi 3 launch back in 2014. It was followed by a myriad of Mi-branded phones in the country – Mi Mix 2 being the last of them as Xiaomi shifted its focus over to the budget segment. The company has primarily focused on the budget segment since then, expanding to the budget flagship segment with the Redmi K20 Pro last year.

Xiaomi has held the pole position, carrying the label of being the No. 1 smartphone maker in India, for two consecutive years. The company has established its supreme position in the market and its phones are recognizable by any and all. But, this growth has majorly been fueled by the budget-focused Redmi brand, with ‘Mi’ totally missing from the picture.

Mi Phones Coming to India, Again!

Well, in a closed-door briefing with select media personnel, Xiaomi revealed its plans for 2020 and said that the Mi brand will witness an important push in 2020 in India. The Mi brand will make a comeback to the country this year. This means the company will be launching more high-end flagship phones and other premium Mi devices in India. We will focus on the latter down below, so let’s first talk about Mi smartphones.

The first step that Xiaomi took in this renewed focus on the Mi brand was to show off the futuristic Mi Mix Alpha concept phone at the briefing. Raghu Reddy, Head of Categories & Online Sales at Xiaomi India revealed to us that the Mi Mix Alpha will be displayed at Mi Home stores across the country. It will be a great chance for technology enthusiasts to get a quick glimpse at what the future of smartphone may look like. There’s currently no plan to bring this concept phone to India but Xiaomi is evaluating its strategies and we’ll keep you posted on it.

Putting that aside, Reddy further added, “What we are definitely going to do in 2020 is increase the focus on the Mi portfolio. You will definitely see a few premium flagship devices that will be launched from the Mi sub-brand in the year 2020.”

If you are wondering which will be the first Mi phone to land in India, then Xiaomi did not explicitly comment on our queries about the same. The company has, however, put out a slew of teasers with the hashtag #108MPisComing over the past few weeks. It could possibly be a hint for the upcoming launch of the Mi Note 10, which we recently checked out.

Xiaomi is also expected to make an appearance at MWC Barcelona to take the wraps off their next flagship phone – Mi 10 and Mi 10 Pro. If we go by what Reddy said during the briefing, you can see these flagships to make their way to India in 2020. It will compete against the likes of OnePlus, Asus, and Samsung in the sub-Rs 50,000 price segment.

Why the Sudden Shift in Strategy?

Redmi has long focused on providing the most value-for-money. Had you ever imagined premium glass offering in the sub-Rs. 10,000 price segment? Redmi Note 7 series made this a reality, with the Redmi Note 8 series carrying forward the legacy. Mi brand, on the other hand, redirected its energy to high-end specs and first-of-its-kind features.

If you consider the Mi 9 Pro 5G that launched last year, it brought 40W wired charging, 30W wireless charging, and 10W reverse wireless charging. That’s amazing, right? You should expect to see these innovations make their way to India soon but the important question is – why the sudden shift in strategy?

Well, the answer is simple yet two-fold. Reddy spoke about this during the briefing and said, “As an entity, Xiaomi India, we weren’t necessarily ready for all of this [Mi brand expansion in India] back..say in 2016 or 2017. Cut to 2020, we’re in a far better place.”

The company decided to capture a bigger chunk of the market back in 2017 by growing Redmi in the entry-level and budget segment. It sorted out manufacturing, sales, and a slew of marketing hurdles over these recent years. Xiaomi also grew its offline presence (even though it started out as an online-only brand) with its Mi Home stores and retail partners, giving it a wider reach, which it can now tap to showcase the innovative new flagships that will be launched under the Mi brand.

Commenting on the revival of the Mi brand, Reddy said, “So, I think..you know..all in all, I think we [Xiaomi India] are in a place where we are equipped to start going after the more flagship devices out there.” The company believes the time is right. It now has the right forum to dive headfirst back into the premium flagship segment, which has on the rise in terms of shipments, and the Mi brand could cater to their flagship needs.

As compared to Redmi, the Mi phone launches will certainly be more sporadic. Don’t be overoptimistic and expect new Mi flagships or upgrades every six months, like the Note series in India.

Mi Watch India Launch Expected?

In addition to Mi-branded smartphones making a comeback to India, Reddy spoke about further expanding the Mi Ecosystem. The company has created a robust portfolio of IoT products including air purifiers, smart lights, and even water purifiers over the past few years. Well, Xiaomi is looking to expand on existing categories and new products across new categories – which the executives decided to stay mum about.

Not just on the phone side, you will see a lot more focus on ensuring that some of those breakthrough innovative products, cutting across categories will find their way into India,” said Reddy during the briefing. He further elaborated saying that these will include more premium Mi TVs, smart lighting, and new products from categories that Xiaomi is yet to explore in the country.

Xiaomi is known to have disrupted the smart TV market in India with its extensive Mi TV portfolio over the past couple of years. It is now not only going to bring budget-oriented TVs but I expect them to debut the super-thin Mural TV or the massive Redmi TV here in the country. Reddy did also mentioned the arrival of a lot more premium smart light products in 2020, which sounds exciting.

Apart from this, I expect Xiaomi to intensify focus on wearables. The Mi Band is what enabled the company to become a renowned wearable maker and now that the Mi Watch and Mi Watch Color have arrived, I cannot help but be excited for what the future entails.

Is a New Poco Smartphone Coming?

As you would expect, we had to air our skepticism about the future of Poco smartphones even though it wasn’t really the right forum for it. Reddy did not comment on the queries and patiently asked us to wait for the brand’s representatives to reveal more about their plans.

Poco F2 is one of the most anticipated phones in 2020. Poco’s Global Head Alvin Tse had recently piqued our interest by tweeting about the upcoming phone. And it was recently trademarked as well, so I guess we will have to wait until an official announcement.

Beebom’s Take on Mi Brand Revival in India

Coming back to the revival of its Mi brand in India, Xiaomi now has more confidence in pushing forward with its premium phones – in a country where value-for-value holds the utmost importance. On one hand, I’m truly excited to see the Chinese giant making a huge stride and deciding to again place a bet on the Mi flagships. I have wanted to touch and feel premium Mi-series phones launched in China for the longest time.

But, on the other hand, the skeptic inside nags me to not forget the competition and Xiaomi’s brand perception in the country. People have come to associate the company with their bang for the buck offerings – even if they span into the budget flagship market (more on this below). Xiaomi will have to once again allocate resource to educate users about the Mi brand. And most importantly, why these users should opt for its premium phones instead of the competition.

We know the Chinese giant is one of the first to offer the latest Snapdragon 800-series chipset in its phones, along with a host of flagship features. It packs them all but would users be willing to shell out close to Rs. 40,000 for Mi branded phones in India over the likes of OnePlus and Samsung in this price bracket.

Secondly, Reddy also accepted the fact that Mi brand phones will surely have some of its features clash with the Redmi budget flagship. That’s undeniable but he did state that Mi phones will be the first to bring a slew of features, which will then trickle down to Redmi budget flagships down the road. Mi-branded phones, in my opinion, may yet again draw towards itself a niche audience as users would choose to patiently wait for upcoming budget flagship offerings. What are your thoughts on the Mi brand comeback? Do let us know in the comments section down below.

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