Xiaomi is a pretty popular brand but they have been seriously struggling in their home country with a reputation of making cheaper phones that people don’t want to be seen carrying. Fortunately, this hasn’t been an issue in India; a market that is obsessed with specs and cheaper phones. Xiaomi’s growth in India has probably opened the eyes of executives to the immense growth potential that might be present in Africa.
If the words uttered by Xiaomi’s Senior Vice President Xiang Wang at MWC 2019 are to be believed then Africa is Xiaomi’s next target:
We see the African countries building, accelerating their migration from 3G to 4G. We only have 4G products, so I think it’s the right time for us to learn that market, to serve the customers first and learn more so we can have more products for Africa.
If Xiaomi can get the pricing of their devices right (which they have proven able to do e.g Pocophone) then I think they will be able to make an impact on the price-conscious African market. In my view, the average African isn’t too concerned about which device they are rocking and if they can get a really good smartphone in the $100-$200 and that device can go on WhatsApp, then they are good to go. With Xiaomi already partnering with Google and making Android One devices, they could also make lower end devices around $50-$100 with Android Go and test the African waters with those.
Though the lack of a timeline suggests that this was something in consideration at Xiaomi and not actually a concrete plan, it could be a while before we see Xiaomi actively focus on the African market. With the first smartphone factory in Africa on the horizon that could still be a good thing as Xiaomi could study the lessons learnt by Mara and establish their own factories thus making the devices they make for Africa cheaper. Just a thought…