Newspaper article International New York Times

Chinese Phone Maker Looks to Indian Market

Newspaper article International New York Times

Chinese Phone Maker Looks to Indian Market

Article excerpt

The Chinese maker of smartphones introduced a new phone that will go on sale first in India for about $200, a low price for a flagship device.

For those who think the West is the center of the tech world, Xiaomi has a different opinion.

The upstart Chinese maker of smartphones just hosted its biggest event outside of its home country to introduce a new flagship phone, and it was not in the United States or even Europe -- it was in India.

The phone, the Mi 4i, was introduced on Thursday by Hugo Barra, a former Google executive who now leads Xiaomi's global division. The phone includes impressive specs and special features in India -- like extra language options -- and will go on sale Thursday in India, and in May in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

As Lei Jun, Xiaomi's chief executive, normally does in China, Mr. Barra guided an enthusiastic audience through the phone's range of features. But for all the attention Xiaomi gives to technical details and its operating system, the denouement came when Mr. Barra announced the price of the phone: 12,999 rupees, or roughly $200, a low price for a flagship device.

While there are a huge number of reasons for Xiaomi, valued at $45 billion after its latest December fund-raising round, not to push into markets like the United States -- from potential patent lawsuits to having to develop relationships with carriers -- perhaps the primary reason Xiaomi is entering India is that the country looks quite a bit like China several years ago.

India has a huge population with very few owners of smartphones. As a developing country, India has user needs, from multiple SIM cards to concerns about data consumption, that resemble those of Chinese users.

Most important, Indians are expected to buy far more smartphones this year than they did in 2014, according to IDC, the research firm. …

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