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SPARK OF THE CORPORATE

Lei Jun, the savvy technocrat-cum-shrewd businessman, knows the pulse of his market very well, and accordingly plays his cards. From creating and engaging with MI online communities and offering flash sales to hosting unique events such as periodic festivals for brand-MI followers (who’d like to call themselves as MI-Fans) to even throwing parties for them in expensive night-clubs-- apart from, of course, creating one of the best and cheapest smart-phones, he has turned the smart-phone market on its head. And all of that has led to Xiaomi, the company he co-founded, becoming the world’s third largest smartphone manufacturer—behind only Samsung Electronics and Apple Inc.—in a mere five years since its inception(Founded in 2010). Besides, it is now also the world’s most valuable private tech start-up.

Education

Born Dec. 16, 1969 (Xiantao, Hubei province, China)Lei graduated from Mianyang Middle School in 1987 and completed his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the Wuhan University in 1992.

Enterprising all the way…

After completing graduation in 1992, he joined Kingsoft and helped build it Beijing branch. The company was until then primarily into developing word processing software. Lei realised it wasn’t going to sustain nor was it going to bring in appreciable profits, especially in the face of proven and leading players in the market.

So, the leadership qualities were there for all to see and this eventually lead him to become the president and CEO of the company.

The businessman and investor…

While he was seeing Kingsoft through the difficult period as its chief, he also founded an online bookstore called Joyo.com in 2000. This seemingly insignificant happening went on to become a much priced asset for Lei Jun in about four years. Joyo.com was bought by Amazon in 2004 for a then desirable price tag of USD$75 million.

He successfully saw the public listing of Kingsoft on the Hong-Kong Stock Exchange in 2007, and right after that he resigned from Kingsoft.

This was the right time for him to make good of the money he had earned from the sale of Joyo.com, which he did by investing in Vancl.com and UCWeb – in 2007. This was the beginning of a spate of investments for the young and enterprising lei Jun who, by the time Xiaomi was founded, had invested in no less than 20 companies encompassing e-Commerce, Mobile, and Social Networking.

The right mix…for Xiaomi

All of this he was able to do after he had conceptualized the idea of Xiaomi, which was co-founded with tech wizards from Google, Microsoft, and Motorola joining hands with Lei. Founding it was easy as he was already into investing a handful of technology companies and, therefore, well equipped.But, it wouldn’t have been easy for to take those steps if it wasn’t for him experience of not being as successful as he would have wanted to at Kingsoft, where he realised something was missing. At least a few things that would propel Kingsoft to the glory it deserved (in his view).

So, he set out with three things to invest in – Smart-Phones, e-Commerce, and Social Networking.

With that as the backdrop, Xiaomi was founded in April 2010. The company was able to capitalise on a massive gap in the Chinese market with the smartphone business just ripe in emerging markets as millions of new consumers began searching for their first handset.

The fact that western brands were already present didn’t matter much because they tended to be too pricey for in China where it is said knock-offs and fakes ruled the roost.

Challenging the Goliaths

So, under such fertile circumstances, Xiaomi launched its first handset in 2011, claiming that it was faster than the iPhone - and half the price. The Chinese, who always seem to prefer the middle-path, accepted this slightly toned-down version of the iPhone with open arms.

Another strategy was selling the hardware at cost and then monetizing through software updates (which were released staggering frequency of almost every week). This primary strategy coupled with savvy marketing and sales techniques lifted the sales of Xiaomi (registered the highest sale in day for any smart-phone on the first day of online sales).

It wasn’t a surprise that in a mere half-decade, Xiaomi was able to replace the Samsung and Apple in the Chinese smart-phone market.

The rise and rise of….Xiaomi

China was conquered (so to say), it was time for Lei Jun’s Xiaomi to explore other frontiers. What better avenue than the equally fertile and gigantic land of India with a matching population with an inherent penchant for economy over perfection. So, Xiaomi debuted in India in mid-2014 and has already created ripples in the market there as well. The company plans to make its mark in the Americas as well – and, if history has any say, Xiaomi will be successful there too.

No wonder the company was valued at USD$45 billion – taking Lei Jun’s (77% stake in Xiaomi) net worth to a whopping USD$35 billion. Not only that, Xiaomi today is just behind Samsung and Apple in the global smart-phone market.

Kudos to the vision and leadership of Lei Jun.

Awards & Recognition:

Ranked by Forbes magazine as the sixth richest person in China (and the 87th richest in the world) in May, 2015 (Estimated net worth of $13.6 billion)
Time magazine’s 2015 list of the 100 most influential people (a titan)
Businessman of the Year by Forbes(Asia) magazine, 2014.
Recognized amongst the Top 10 IT Figures of 1999, 2000, & 2002.
Chosen as the Top 10 Figures of Gaming in 2005
Selected as one of the Top 10 Business Leaders of the Year in 2012 (by China Central Television)
Named one of the 11 Most Powerful Business people in Asia by Fortune (magazine) - 2013
Received the award for Most Notable Entrepreneur by BAZAAR Men’s Style - 2013
Quotes
  When I was at Kingsoft, I was under pressure and worked hard, but the results were not satisfactory
  Things get much easier if one jumps on the bandwagon of existing trends.A pig could fly if it finds itself in the eye of a storm
  If people really want to compare Xiaomi to a foreign company, you can say it looks a bit like Apple. But it’s really more like Amazon with some elements of Google. So take these three companies together and it’s easier to clearly understand what kind of company Xiaomi is. Xiaomi selling mobile phones is like Amazon selling Kindles. So you can understand why we sell them for so cheap
  We truly hope that these copy cats can please be more supportive to domestic brands. They should keep focusing only on [copying] iPhone, Samsung, HTC, and Nokia
  If Jobs had lived in China, I think he could not have succeeded.Jobs was a scrupulous perfectionist, while Chinese culture emphasizes the middle path.
  Nationality does not apply to mobile phones.We design for the global market
  We give ourselves three years to be the top three or even No.1 smartphone brand in India
  I believe five years from now will be better timing for Xiaomi to consider an IPO.” - In Oct 015
  We used to grow several-fold a year. But the global economy is a mess, and we grew 33% in the first half of this year. Everybody said, you’re not growing fast enough. That’s absurd. We’re still a five-year-old start-up. This kind of expectation weighs heavily on us.” - As of Oct 2015
  Xiaomi pays great attention to innovation. Last year we applied for 2,700 patents. This year’s goal is 4,000
  You’ll have to design different phones for different crowds in different scenarios. It will be hard to have big innovations targeted at all users. But innovating for different user scenarios hasn’t really started. Every group of people has its own needs
  Today 130 million Chinese use Xiaomi phones. That’s 10 percent of the population. Almost all our users are young, so we might have influence on 20 percent to 25 percent of the young population
  Xiaomi looks a bit like Apple but is really more like Amazon with some elements of Google
  Do what you want to do. Do what you like to do. Only when you do that will you have motivation and passion about what you do
  Based on my 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship, I have found out a special recipe; that is make as many friends as you can
  Less eventually equals more. Why do I say so? If we can restrain our greedy and have an open mind, indirectly we will have more friends and the time we spend to argue with people will be lesser too
  Some say you should partner with people you know. Find the best people
  The most important thing is to focus, focus, focus
  Were not a company that chases sales volume. We chase customer satisfaction
  If you are popular with your customers, you succeed
  I just work a little harder than others do
  Mr. Tata is one of the most well-respected business leaders in the world. An investment by him is an affirmation of the strategy we have undertaken in India so far, we are looking forward to bringing more products into India
  India is becoming our largest overseas market.Within five or 10 years, we have the opportunity to become the No.1 smartphone company in the world
  I feel that today's investment interest in the Internet is very lively, especially at this time. I feel that it is at a peak. I feel that the whole entrepreneur scene is still very lively
  There are four listed companies over which I have influence, so I know very well the merits and shortcomings of listed companies.With Xiaomi, which only has a history of 4 years, I personally feel that we won't talk about an IPO within five years

Hope viewers caught up the spark…

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