Xiaomi, China’s largest smartphone company, will begin selling headphones, smart wristbands and other accessories online in the United States in coming months, taking its first tentative step onto Apple Inc’s home turf without its signature Mi mobile devices.
The company also said it is close to securing a manufacturing partner in Brazil, which will help it skirt punishing tariffs on imported electronics when it begins sales in Latin America’s largest economy in the first half of this year.
Xiaomi, a five-year-old upstart whose name means “Little Rice,” came out of nowhere to become China’s fastest-selling mobile brand. It has been rapidly expanding its global footprint through direct, online sales.
The company was valued at $45 billion in a December funding round that drew investors ranging from Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund to a private capital firm backed by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd co-founder Jack Ma.
Its Mi devices, which scored with Chinese users because of their low cost and the company’s heavy reliance on user interaction and feedback, are now sold online across Asia, including most recently India.
Brazil marks the company’s first foray with smartphones outside of its home continent. Global operations vice president Hugo Barra said Xiaomi intends to begin selling its phones there in the first half of this year.
The company is in “extremely advanced discussions” with at least half a dozen manufacturing partners there, Barra, a former Google Inc executive, said without revealing names, which will help it side-step a roughly 60 percent tax on foreign electronics.
The industry is particularly curious about Xiaomi’s potential to make a dent in the United States, which is the world’s biggest mobile market in dollar terms but one where phone sales are controlled by telecoms carriers and where Apple holds sway.
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SOURCE: Reuters, Edwin Chan