Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone maker that sells more phones in its home market than Apple, had hired a Google vice-president as part of a push to find growth opportunities abroad, it said yesterday.
Hugo Barra, who has been Google's vice-president of Android product management, would join Xiaomi in October as head of international business development, Lei Jun, the founder and chief executive of the Beijing-based firm, said.
Xiaomi, backed by investors including Temasek Holdings and Qiming Venture Partners, said this month that it had completed a round of funding that gave it a valuation of $10 billion (about R104bn). Lei said in June that the company would more than double handset sales to 15 million this year.
Nicole Peng, the China research director for technology consultancy Canalys, said: "Hugo Barra can bring his international experience on products and relationship with ecosystem partners to Xiaomi. This can be a huge step for Xiaomi if they make it right."
In the China smartphone market, Xiaomi rose to sixth place in the quarter to June from eighth a year earlier, Canalys said earlier this month. Apple was seventh.
Xiaomi has won sales with inexpensive handsets running Google's Android system.
Starting this month, Xiaomi began sales of its first device for China Mobile, the largest phone company with 745 million subscribers at the end of last month. The handset is priced at 799 yuan (R1 347). Apple has yet to offer a device through China Mobile.
Barra was a public face for some of Google's key efforts around Android, an operating system that the company provides to device makers at no cost. In July, he touted an updated version of Google's latest Nexus 7 tablet that uses Android software at a press event.
"We wish Hugo Barra the best," Google said. "We'll miss him at Google and we're excited that he is staying within the Android ecosystem." - Bloomberg