Redmi looks to enter new segments with the launch of Redmi Earbuds S

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on May 26, 2020

While smartphones have been the core of Redmi’s identity, we wanted to bring other technologies to the masses, says Xiaomi CMO Anuj Sharma

Xiaomi’s sub-brand Redmi on Tuesday has launched its new TWS device, the brand’s first, the Redmi Redmi Earbuds S.

The launch is part of the brand’s broader strategy to delve further into accessories and ecosystem products in India, a segment the brand calls as “phone plus”.


In an interview with BusinessLine, Anuj Sharma, Chief Marketing Officer, Xiaomi India discusses the brand’s idea behind delving into newer segments starting with accessories and ecosystem products, while maintaining its hold in the smartphone segments.

Sharma also elaborated upon how the brand plans to differentiate itself from Mi moving forward.

What is the idea behind Redmi delving into accessories and ecosystem products?

A majority of the marketshare is held by Xiaomi when it comes to smartphones and phones, and that is primarily because of the Redmi smartphones on the market.

Both Mi and Redmi have coexisted in India. And in a way, they ended up overlapping with each other. That’s why we decided to get a real differentiation. The entire idea of Redmi as a brand has been our democratizing technology. While smartphones have been the core of Redmi’s identity, we wanted to bring other technologies to the masses.

We want to start from the product itself because essentially it is a product-based brand. So we decided to expand to phone plus strategy. The plan took off with the Redmi Note 8 coming with a scratch guard in the box, which was made in partnership with Corning which had a great reception.

The next product category we focused on was the portable power category, with Redmi Power Bank

The next phase focuses on audio with the first audio product from Redmi India, Redmi Earbuds S.

How will the Redmi products differentiate itself from Mi products in similar segments?

In terms of Mi and Redmi products, the differentiation we are looking at is who we want to reach. So, both these products have been built for different demographics. The Mi TWS devices, for example, are built for audio enthusiasts.

The Redmi Buds have been built for a large section of India. These are compact, heat- and water-resistant and approximately have 12-hour battery life. These are meant for people who are on the go.

Brands are innovating in terms of offline retail in order to cope with the setbacks faced due to the pandemic. What will be your strategy in terms of sales moving forward?

Traditionally, Xiaomi is tuned for a non-physical, non-demo kind of a business environment. From 2014 to 2017, it was just selling online. We are geared up for that in a strong way. Our basic business model was online first.

We also have Mi commerce, which is the hyper-local outreach programme. Based on your phone location, it’ll tell you the stores around you. And also the modules and the stock available with those days so that they can come and deliver to you.

I think this is going to be a pretty big deal where retail counters not limited by the walk-ins they can get. But he is also getting into the same mode where his discoverability in a particular radius becomes a lot more. And in the long run, I think this could increase the overall business for them.

For us, it's actually a combination of online and hyper-local offline.

You’ve talked about device security from a hardware perspective. There have been recent reports regarding data privacy issues with Redmi devices. What is your strategy in terms of ensuring security from a software perspective and ensuring data privacy of users?

From a personal security perspective, it is still as secure as it’s always been.

Starting next month in some devices starting from the K20 Pro, which was launched last year, we will start upgrading to MiUI 12. That gives you even more control for everything. For users who are concerned about controlling each and every aspect of their privacy, they will have that control as well.

The recent reporting that did happen was related to certain aggregated data from the browser. So again, it was, essentially, so that the browser is able to, you know, render those sites better for a large majority of people. There was no personal information going up. We had in 2018 itself moved all our data to the local servers. If there is a professional agency or anyone who is understanding of all of these certifications and security measures, we are obviously always open for an audit.

In China, Redmi already has a plethora of products ranging from routers to smart home integration hubs and smart screens. What kind of products will the brand be launching in India? What according to your are the current limitations in bringing such devices to India?

We will not rush anything. The last thing we want to do is launch four or five different categories to try and see what sticks.

I think if we are launching something we want it to succeed, which means a lot of times they need India-based customizations. Whether it’s, you know, the audience is great on whether it has to be a metric. In this case, when it gets into smart devices, it gets even more tricky. Because the Indian customizations are a lot heavier. We are evaluating a couple of other categories. But for now, I think it’s going to be the phone plus segment.

We are evaluating a fitness wearable. We are seeing if it makes sense for India and can be differentiated enough if we were to launch it. Even in audio, we’re looking at Bluetooth and Bluetooth speakers. So we’re looking at all of those things as well, to see if they make sense. And will consumers see that value if Redmi has to launch this

The gaming segment is booming in India. What can we expect from the brand in terms of gaming?

The new TWS device has a bit of a gaming focus as well. There's a gaming mode that we are launching with this. It is on the headphones, not a software tool separately. So irrespective of which one you're connecting to, you can always move into a gaming mode, which basically reduces the latency to about 122 milliseconds.

Redmi Note itself has been the leader in terms of the devices that people use for gaming.

Is the success of Mi devices going to be a reference point as you enter into the phone plus and IoT segment?

If a product group from the Mi side has done exceedingly well, there are learnings to be taken from there. However, trying to create something which is similar or the same is not going to help. So we would want to differentiate.

We want to give actual choices rather than an illusion of a choice that people can actually look at. ‘Can I expand the market? Can I get new people to try out new technology?’ I think that’s going to be a question that you have.

What are your thoughts on the launch of 5G in India?

As a consumer, I’d be excited, which I think we do see from a lot of consumers. However, there are a lot of large economic aspects at play.

I don’t know if this is the right time for the government to do an auction. I don’t know what the status of the telcos is. All of those aspects will start coming in.

The Redmi Smart Display 8 was launched through a crowdfunding campaign in China. The Mi vacuum cleaner was launched in India through the crowdfunding platform. Will we see similar strategies for such products for Redmi in India?

When it comes to Redmi devices, right now, I think crowdfunding will work really well for newer segments. For example, the Mi vacuum cleaner is based on crowdfunding because itls such a niche segment.

And it is important to test it out and there are no analyst reports that say how many people actually use vacuums and how many will be willing to use a robotic vacuum cleaner? I think from our perspective, the segments we are getting into, at least in the beginning, are large enough and have been tested. It’s for us to kind of go and expands that market further. And I think that’s going to be the focus.

What is your strategy for competing against brands there are planning to delve into similar segments?

From a competition perspective, the largest competition for the phone plus strategy will continue to be Samsung, then there’s Vivo, Oppo and then Realme.

However, our strategy has always been consumer-focused more than competition focused. So as long as we are delivering the products that consumers want, and we giving them the quality that they expect from us, I think we are being in a place of strength.

Published on May 26, 2020

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