Xiaomi may be little known outside
In the three months to March, Xiaomi surpassed Apple and other established Asian players such as
Using a high-tech but low-cost sales model, Xiaomi aims to tap into a vast market of budget-conscious young Asians who want the newest in smartphone technology.
Technology research firm IDC said in a February report that cheap smartphones would be a key driver of sales in the low-cost segment of emerging markets outside
Handsets selling for less than
"Asian markets have burgeoning young populations who want the latest smartphone technology, but (they have) restrictive budgetary constraints,"
Unlike its giant rivals, Xiaomi has minimal advertising and no retail outlets which help keep costs down.
Instead, it has gathered a cult-like following on social media, including
Most consumers -- dubbed "Mi fans" by Xiaomi -- buy their phones directly via its website during regular "flash" sales.
Xiaomi, whose name means millet in Mandarin, is looking further afield and poached former Google high-flyer
The firm caused a mini-frenzy in Singapore in February when it began its global roll-out under the watchful eye of Barra.
Xiaomi phones, boasting processors and sleek designs that rival top
Its low-end Redmi retails at Sg$169 (
The higher-end Mi3 retails at Sg339, compared with Sg$1,068 for the Galaxy S5 and Sg$1,148 for an iPhone 5s with 32 gigabytes of storage.
Xiaomi is not alone and industry experts say
A report by IDC said such "homegrown vendors" hold 39 percent of the total market share in the
Nearly 530 million smartphones were shipped to consumers in
Xiaomi may be doing well but internationally
But Xiaomi's global vice president Barra sees big things ahead for the
"The company is bound to change the world in many significant ways," Barra said at the Startup Asia conference in Singapore on
Singapore-based Golovko said upstart Asian makers will have to continuously reinvent themselves.
"As smartphones become more commonplace... consumers in emerging markets will become more demanding and willing and able to spend on them," he said.
"Without a significant shift in branding and product portfolio low-cost manufacturers will see deteriorating prospects over the mid-to-long term."
"This segment of the market are the geeks, if I can say that. They just want to experience the latest gadgets and are not so cost or brand-conscious," she said.
Other analysts warn that significant hurdles remain, especially expanding overseas.
Xiaomi plans to move into nine other countries apart from Singapore this year.
"With Xiaomi for example, it could find its online sales model difficult to implement in countries like
But while leading players such as Apple and
"We expect smartphones to remain the centres of attention for the current market leaders and low-cost manufacturers alike," he said.
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