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Exclusive: Manu Kumar Jain says Xiaomi to focus more on premium smartphones, confident about Mi 11 Ultra

In an exclusive interview with India Today Tech, Manu Kumar Jain Global VP, Xiaomi and MD, Xiaomi India talks about Mi 11 Ultra price, the Redmi K20 successor, Xiaomi's Make in India plans and current challenges for smartphone industry.

twitter-logoManas Tiwari | April 28, 2021 | Updated 14:49 IST
Mi 11 Ultra
Xiaomi had launched Mi 11 Ultra in India last week.

Highlights

  • Xiaomi has recently launched its premium Mi 11 series.
  • MI 11 Ultra is company's most premium phone in India.
  • Xiaomi India head speaks to India Today Tech.

Xiaomi recently launched its first true flagship in India, the Mi 11 Ultra and even though it hasn't confirmed the availability of the phone, remains confident about its success. Mi 11 Ultra, which features one of the biggest camera sensors on any smartphones in the world, is priced at Rs 69,999 in the country. In an exclusive interview with India Today Tech, Manu Kumar Jain Global VP, Xiaomi and MD, Xiaomi India, said that the smartphone is a steal at the price, and he expects it do well.

This isn't Xiaomi's first attempt at the premium market. It has launched the Redmi K20 series and Mi 10 phones in India in the past but, Manu believes that users are now more willing to spend on premium phones. He said that Xiaomi believes that this is the right time for it focus on premium smartphones but doesn't want to refresh the same devices again and again. Manu also talked about the challenges being faced by the smartphone manufacturers, Xiaomi's Make in India efforts and its goals for 2021.

Here are the edited excerpts from the conversation -

Q1 This was by far your biggest launch in India till date. Are you nervous about how the Mi 11 series will be received?

This was our biggest launch of the year. Not just for us, this was the biggest launch for any brand in the country. We believe that all products launched during the event are futuristic devices including the Mi 11 Ultra. These are the kind of devices that other brands will be launching in one or two years of time. So am I happy? Yes. Am I excited? A lot. Am I nervous? Probably, not. My only wish is that we would have done it a time when the world was not going through so many COVID-19 cases.

Q2 We have seen it in the past that every time Xiaomi has tried to enter a more premium category, people have been slightly critical of it. We saw it with the Redmi K20 Pro and last year, with Mi 10. A lot of it can be blamed on the high expectations you have set over the years. What makes you think that consumers are finally ready to pay a premium for Xiaomi phones like Mi 11 Ultra?

Thank you for asking this. It is true that we used to launch one flagship a year. Somewhere we made a mistake by not communicating enough about the success of these devices. Three years ago, when Poco was part of Xiaomi, we launched Poco F1. In 2019, we launched Redmi K20 series and in 2020, we launched Mi 10, Mi 10T and Mi 10T Pro. This year started with the Mi 10i.

All the phones we launched as part of Mi 10 series did really well. Mi 10i became the best-selling phone in Rs 20,000-Rs 30,000 category. Even though there was some buzz around pricing of Redmi K20 prices, they were best-selling smartphones in their categories for six months.

Watch full video interview here -

When we started off in India, bulk of the market was under Rs 20,000. That's when we wanted to focus on those categories. The market has changed and one out of every 10 phones sold now are above Rs 20,000. We believe that now is the right time for us to focus on more premium categories.

Q2 Now, that the Mi 11 Ultra is here, tell us what makes it special? How is it different from competition?

Everything. This is the kind of phone that world has never seen before. The Mi 11 Ultra has the best camera put on a smartphone. A lot of people joke that this is a DSLR that can be used to make calls. We have seen three or four camera phones before but, they have only one main lens. All three of Mi 11 Ultra's cameras act as main camera with a 50-megpaixel and two 48-megapixel sensors.

Q3 You said that the Mi 11 Ultra is priced on the higher side because of the import duties, as you are importing the phone from China. How far are we from manufacturing these premium smartphones in India?

I want to tell people through you that pricing of any phone is not a direct conversion of exchange rates. People often compare prices in other markets with India cost. That is a completely false way of doing it. There are lot of other factors involved. The exchange rates keep fluctuating. Next, the tax rates are different in each country. For example, we have to pay 18 per cent GST in India.

Then, there are other costs involved in each country. In India, we set up two new manufacturing plants in India and a lot of investments go towards that. The global supply chain has been hit because of which the component cost keeps going up and down. This includes everything like chipset, camera sensors, display etc. Given all these things, the cost is very dynamic.

Yet, if you look at the India pricing of Mi 11 Ultra, it is lower than the global pricing, and we are absorbing the import duty and not passing it on to consumers. The way I look at it, Mi 11 Ultra is a steal at Rs 70,000. Of course, if someone wants at Rs 10,000, there is nothing we can do we can't give it.

To the second part of your question.99 per cent of your smartphones are being manufactured in India including Mi 11X and Mi 11X Pro. Mi 11 Ultra is one phone which is being manufactured by our fully automated factory. We only have one such factory in the world and are being forced to import it.

Q4 I mentioned the Redmi K20 Pro briefly at the start. The K20 series was launched in 2019 and had impressive set of features for the time. We haven't seen a successor yet. In fact, you have re-branded the Redmi K40 phones as Mi 11X phones in India. What is the idea behind that and should we not expect K series smartphones in the country?

We have a central R&D team and different product teams for each brand. These teams can pick things from the R&D team and customise it according to the needs of a specific country. So, it's true that Mi 11 series is inspired by Redmi K40 series, but it has been customised keeping Indian customers in mind.

I can't tell you about the future products but there are no immediate plans to launch a Redmi K20 successor. The aim is not to refresh phones in every six months. Brands usually do it when your current phone is not selling well. If you provide a good device, you should be able to sell it for 12 to 15 months.

Q5 Xiaomi has had sane number of launches this year in India as compared to other brands. I don't know how else to put it. We had the Mi 10i, Note 10 series and now, the Mi 11 line-up. What else should we expect from you in 2021?

I genuinely feel that if you make a good phone, you don't need to refresh it for a year. There are brands that refresh two or three phones in the same price point but sell less units than one Redmi Note phone. We firmly believe that less is good, more is not good. It allows you focus on few things. When you try to launch too many devices, you make compromises and keep re-launching the same devices. We want to avoid it as much as possible.

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