Xiaomi Gets Into India’s Retail Channels

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is expanding its sales channels in India beyond Flipkart to include Snapdeal and Amazon India, along with Indian brick-and-mortar retailers for the first time, TechCrunch reported on Tuesday (April 7).

According to a series of tweets by Xiaomi executives, starting this week “Mi India fans” can buy Xiaomi products through the three largest Indian eCommerce sites, as well as 800 brick-and-mortar The Mobile Store outlets and the stores of mobile operator Airtel.

Xiaomi arrived in India late last year with an exclusive retail partnership with Flipkart and sold 1 million phones in its first five months, but the clock has apparently run out on the exclusive deal.

With the shift to broader retail distribution, Xiaomi also appears to be making more of its phones available in India. As a result, Xiaomi has stopped requiring users to pre-register for flash sales of its devices, a measure the company instituted so that it wouldn’t accidentally take more orders than it had phones to sell. With its brand now well established in India, Xiaomi is apparently ready to ship all the phones it can make there.

The company’s long-term plan is to stop shipping any phones to India at all — and instead manufacture them in India. That would cut costs, make localization easier, and position Xiaomi as a local company instead of just another foreign phone maker, Xiaomi head of international Hugo Barra said in an interview. (The company has the same spread-the-manufacturing-around plan for other markets outside China too, especially in places where local regulations require phones to be manufactured domestically.)

While setting up manufacturing around the world sounds more complex than building everything in China, it may be the fast-growing Xiaomi’s best bet for getting a foothold in emerging markets, where its low-cost handsets will have their best chance against more expensive phones from Apple and Samsung. One indication that spreading its bets is a smart strategy: An analyst reported this week that Apple’s iPhone 6 just overtook Xiaomi as China’s best-selling smartphone.