05th Sep 2013

Barra is on board as Xiaomi plans for global expansion

Since it was set up three years ago, smartphone maker Xiaomi has positioned itself as China's answer to Apple - at affordable prices. The company’s marketing strategy is remarkably similar to Apple’s, and CEO Lei Jun’s sartorial choices even mimic those of the late Steve Jobs; Xiaomi has earned the moniker ‘China’s Apple’. At the moment Xiaomi only sells in China and Taiwan, however, last week it was announced that Hugo Barra - currently Google’s VP for Android product management - has been hired by Xiaomi to help “find growth opportunities”. This is big news for Google and a major coup for Xiaomi.

Barra’s departure from Google’s Android division comes just six months after Andy Rubin’s departure. Barra has in recent times becomes a very public face of Android for Google – so this is another high profile loss for the internet giant.

Barra will join Xiaomi in October as head of international business development. Xiaomi - currently valued at $10 billion - recently overtook Apple for smartphone sales in China. One of their latest models, the Hongmi, sold 100,000 units in just 90 seconds. Why? It looks good, the hardware is respectable, and the $130 price tag makes it both attractive and affordable. With a population of 1.3 billion people, the market in China is large enough to keep any company busy, but Xiaomi's intentions extend beyond this. With a big hire like Barra on board Xiaomi’s plans for global expansion are clear.

Barra will bring considerable international experience to the Xiaomi executive team. His formative years were spent in Brazil and he earned a master’s degree in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 2008 Barra joined Google in London as a product manager, three years later he moved to Google global headquarters in California and took on the role of director of product management (Android).

Today, Latin America has the fastest growing internet market in the world, and Brazil is home to the largest number of internet users in the region; there are huge market opportunities for internet companies there. Barra has operated at the top of his game in both the UK and the US, and has an added history in Brazil. It looks like Xiaomi’s plans for global expansion are coming into fruition, and Barra is the man to carry them through.

Hilda Goold

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