Once upon a time all Chinese companies were “units” rather than true corporations. They were owned and managed by the government, within a central planning regime that advanced the interests of bureaucrats rather than consumers’.
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Companies in China’s “official sector” continue to be “units.” But the situation is much different in China’s “entrepreneurial sector,” where – having learned a great deal from their US counterparts — companies are now private ventures — owned and managed by a new generation of entrepreneurs for the sake of consumers rather than government bureaucrats.
Low-cost Smartphone-maker Xiaomi is one of these companies.
Xiaomi has taken its cue from both Google and Apple. From Google, Xiaomi has adopted an open operating platform that has won consumer enthusiasts. “Xiaomi’s operating platform—currently available in English and Chinese—can be down-loaded onto computers worldwide, enabling tech enthusiasts to experience Xiaomi’s interface without owning one of its phones,” writes Paul Mazur of Wall Street Journal.
From Apple, Xiaomi has learned how to master the brand buzz.
“To cultivate a fan base, Xiaomi gives its users and fans direct input into what features and updates it adds to its operating platform, which runs on top of Google’s Android operating system,” writes Mazur. “It updates its software weekly free of charge.”
It has also learned how to compete on innovation rather imitation. “Once regarded as a land of copycats, China is now primed for an era of Internet innovation, and Xiaomi is leading the charge, writes Hamish McKenzie in Beta China. “Like Apple, Xiaomi designs and controls the software that runs on the phone, creating a seamless end-to-end experience that places usability on a pedestal” continues McKenzie. Most notably, Xiaomi does ”in a week what Apple does in a year,” as Forbes’ staff writer Parmy Olson said in a separate piece.
Lessons from Google and Apple have helped Xiaomi build sufficient buzz to challenge Apple in China, where it has a price advantage.
What’s next? Southeast Asia? It remains to be seen.