It is no secret that Xiaomi has been a great success story in India. Something they could make a case study out of and teach in MBA classes. Depending on which data source you believe, the company now sits in the numero uno position in the country in terms of smartphone sales moving past Samsung which has dominated the local market for the past many years.
This success has been on the back of a solid line of affordable offerings that have redefined the mobile landscape in the sub-20,000 rupees market. It didn’t happen in one day and is the result of fine tuning and planning for years which got Xiaomi to the place it is currently at.
And once you set the wheel rolling, there’s no stopping it seems. However, it is also prudent to ensure that you’re running at the optimum pace and not setting up for future failures. Why are we talking about doom and gloom? Well, not because Xiaomi is set to fail but because some of its expansion strategies aren’t really consumer friendly.
Xiaomi set the stage with the Note 4. The phone went on to be a game changer for the company selling in millions. To repeat its success, Xioami brought in a bunch of phones in the subsequent year, hoping to capture even more market share. While it worked, too many of its phones were starting to compete with each other, offering little in terms of distinction. That didn’t stop this juggernaut and we’re seeing the company has started to bring in fresh models in the 6th generation of its entry-level lineup.
But herein lies our problem. A quick look at what’s currently available in the market from Xiaomi under Rs 15,000 and you’re gonna pull your hair out trying to choose a phone from the surfeit of options available. There are recent phones such as Redmi 6A, Redmi 6, Mi A2, Redmi 6 Pro along with older models such as Redmi 5A, Redmi 5, Redmi Note 5, Redmi Note 5 Pro, Redmi Note 4 (yes, it’s still available) and Redmi Y2. Add the fact that these come in different configurations and soon you’d want to shoot yourself.
Another ignored concern around this strategy is the declining shelf life and sales cycle. Unlike 2 years back, when an update was released in a year, the stiff competition is forcing smartphone manufacturers to release a new model every two months. This creates little in terms of differentiation since the technology within these phones moves at its own pace and fails to bring any observable change in performance across short-lived generations of these phones.
No, having so many phones doesn’t help sales, it adds to a huge baggage that is difficult to regularly update and offer support for. It also makes customers indecisive and frustrated so they end up buying a wrong phone which doesn’t fit their needs or get a different brand altogether.
It’s not something other market leaders haven’t grappled with though. Samsung was pretty much running into the same problem a couple of years back, while usually there wasn’t a number that wasn’t associated with a Nokia phone.
We would rather Xiaomi build phones that are all-rounders or bring phones that excel in certain in-demand aspects (think camera and battery). Flooding the market with umpteen models worked in 2015, but isn’t a way to sure shot success that these brands hope to achieve.