Xiaomi’s expansion plan is to sell out fast and keep fans lusting for more

Another satisfied customer.
Another satisfied customer.
Image: Reuters/Jason Lee
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Despite Xiaomi’s dislike for comparisons with Apple, the Chinese smartphone maker is gaining a reputation as the industry’s savviest seller since Steve Jobs. The company’s first launch outside of greater China, in the city state of Singapore, went off like gangbusters today, with its mid-priced Redmi phone selling out in a mere eight minutes thanks to a carefully calibrated marketing blitz.

As Tech in Asia reported, the company had this to say to the lucky buyers and the disappointed :

Dear Mi fans, we’re sold out for #Redmi–in just eight minutes! As this is the first time we’re selling in Singapore, we wanted to learn more about the market behavior, sales reaction, and optimise our business processes (e-commerce, logistics, customer support). We understand that many of you are eager to purchase a Redmi still, so we are working hard to bring in more products for you. We’ll announce our next round of sales shortly. For those who have successfully placed an order, we are working hard to fulfill your orders and you will be getting your #Redmi soon.

The company isn’t saying how many of the S$169 (US$134) phones it sold, but that’s not really not the point. (For reference, it unloaded 10,000 in 10 minutes in Taiwan in December.) Xiaomi doesn’t have the vast production capabilities of larger rivals like Samsung, Huawei, and Lenovo, so it compensates by creating feverish demand through splashy launches and flash sales, which invariably sell out within minutes.

That has created the kind of marketing buzz that once belonged only to Apple, with fans queuing up for the mere chance to buy a new phone. Xiaomi’s handsets have decent if not earth-shaking specifications, but much like the glory days of the iPhone, they are imbued with the ineffable aura of desirability that makes consumers swoon. Xiaomi is preparing another Singapore flash sale of its higher-end (S$419) Mi-3 phone on March 7—and it’s a safe bet to say that supply will be limited.