Xiaomi leader gives GMIC SV VIPs rare insight into the Chinese juggernaut

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The exclusive GMIC SV VIP Welcome Dinner brought together participants interested in getting the full experience, from exclusive conference access to rare networking opportunities. The highlight, though, was an intimate fireside chat with Xiaomi Vice President of International Hugo Barra.

In two years, Barra has helped turn Xiaomi into a smartphone juggernaut in native China as well as India and other growing markets. “I remember [last summer] renting our first office in Bangalore, India, and it was just me and my general manager, and I remember me staring at him and saying ‘Now, what?’” They evidently figured out a plan quickly, selling three million phones within the following year and taking full advantage of the expanding Asian market.

Barra said one of its biggest strengths is agile development, a rare trait it shares with Google, Facebook and other large, innovative companies. “Our company has eight co-founders, which is completely weird for a company of our size, but that’s the reason we were able to do what we do is that [each area moves] at the speed of a small startup.”

“Chinese companies have more than enough power to go global, if they choose to,” he said, noting that the competition within China was significantly higher than Silicon Valley or other areas. “It’s a lot harder to go into China, though, as you have to spend significant time there to understand the market. It took LinkedIn years to get in it. I see Travis [Kalanick] from Uber almost every other week in Beijing, as his business is committed to being in the Asian market… When it comes to coming to China, American companies have to be all in to make it.”

As his company launches its products in America, Brazil and other areas, Barra said that there is a good chance Xiaomi will be the company to beat in the upcoming years.

“There’s no good reason why China shouldn’t produce one of the leaders in consumer electronics in the world. There was Sony in the good old days in Japan, then there were the Koreans with Samsung and LG as production giants… and China is yet to produce one,” Barra said. “I think we’re a good candidate.”

Exclusive to VIP All Access Pass, the VIP Welcome Dinner was on Tuesday, September 29.

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