Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp. is opening a store in Paris and planning for more shops in France, Spain and Italy, testing the appetite of consumers in developed markets as its executives consider a U.S. expansion.
“Every morning I think about the U.S. market and when we’ll launch there,” Xiaomi Senior Vice President Wang Xiang, who heads global operations, said Tuesday in an interview in Paris. “But 2018 is the year of Europe.”
With its plans for an initial public offering at the filing stage, Xiaomi is looking to expand into new markets as it consolidates its position at home and in countries including India, Russia and Indonesia. It launched last year in Spain, where it has four stores now. Its first French shop, in Paris, opened on Tuesday.
The U.S. may prove to be a whole different ball game. A tough stance by President Donald Trump against Chinese technology companies has already caused turmoil for the likes of ZTE Corp. and Huawei Technologies Co.
“I don’t see any reason the U.S. government will block us — we’re an internet company founded by engineers who studied in the U.S. and worked at Google and Facebook,” said Wang, a former Qualcomm executive. “After the IPO we’re an open book, for regulators and for consumers.”
Xiaomi doesn’t sell phones in the U.S., but does ship products such as portable batteries and electric micro-scooters, through Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. The U.S. market, but also the U.K., is more carrier-driven, which involves more phone customization, while Xiaomi’s strategy relies on making one model and selling it everywhere at roughly the same price, Wang said.
In Europe, Xiaomi’s biggest challenge will be convincing consumers its devices are top-quality though priced more affordably than the flagship devices of Samsung Electronics Co. and Apple Inc., Wang said.
“I went around stores in Europe and saw phones offered at high prices for medium specifications,” Xiang said. “There’s an opportunity for us.”
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