Xiaomi, once the most popular smartphone vendor in China, is showing signs of decline. Back in the day, Xiaomi broke the mold by offering a feature-rich phone at an impossibly low price point. Its unique marketing strategy and business model helped it to break online sales records. But soon others started copying Xiaomi’s strategy and the novelty wore off. The company has been slow to innovate. For phone buyers, Xiaomi ended up being a low-end phone: once they had enough money, they would upgrade to an Apple or Samsung. Today Xiaomi is quickly diversifying from phones to rice cookers and drones. But is that enough to come back to relevance?
Companies that have spent months being feted by the media don’t tend to revise down their sales target, but in March Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi did just that—from 100 million units set in December 2014 to 80-100 million. Rival Chinese brand Huawei overtook Xiaomi in the third quarter as China’s top smartphone vendor. It’s a reality check for the upstart vendor, which soared to fame and a $45 billion valuation in less than five years as China’s first-time smartphone buyers snapped up handsets at a furious rate. But Xiaomi isn’t the only one hurting from the smartphone market slowdown in China.
Tencent has used WeChat to create a mobile ecosystem for China, which has more smartphone than PC users. By steadily integrating value-added services into a social media app, Tencent has made it increasingly useful to both consumers and businesses. That means WeChat has more opportunities than other messaging apps to make money. In contrast to Facebook, which earns most of its revenue from advertising, WeChat monetizes by integrating online payment functions that encourage shopping through the app and selling games. In the second quarter, Tencent recorded RMB 4.5 billion in revenue from games purchased through WeChat and its older instant messaging app QQ, up 11% year-on-year.
Dating back to 1935, China’s system of five-year plans has long been dismissed as anachronistic, but it remains crucial to guidance of the economy
This year Alibaba broke all records on Singles Day with sales of $14.3 billion. Singles Day, or China’s Black Friday, was first invented by Alibaba in 2009. The idea was to create an annual sales event with crazy discounts supposedly for those who are single. (The fact that everyone, irrespective of their romantic status, jumped in and shopped is a different matter altogether.) This year a whopping 95 million users joined the cyber shopping fest. In other words, approximately almost one out of eight people in the world clicked the “buy” button on Alibaba’s marketplaces. What did it take to pull this off?
China’s internet world is ruled by three big players: Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, collectively known as BAT. The three companies generated revenues of $20 billion in 2013 and $8.16 billion in the third quarter of 2014. The big three account for a significant, and perhaps disproportionate, share of China’s internet market. Another technology company that has risen to prominence pretty quickly is Xiaomi. BAT and Xiaomi are quickly making inroads into new areas outside their core business—by either investing in or acquiring companies. Take a look at the brand and companies that are backed by these four companies.
If there’s one activity that unites China’s subway commuters, it’s huddling over their smartphone screens to watch the latest local, South Korean or Western TV shows downloaded or streamed from one of China’s many video websites. They’re part of a wider trend where more and more consumers are heading online to find their entertainment, and government statistics show music and video are the fourth and fifth most popular uses for the internet, respectively. But for all the prodigious growth, monetizing the interest has been a different matter. That is largely due to a pervasive culture of free, on-demand content, but that may be set to change.
China’s DJI holds a commanding lead in the red-hot consumer drone market. Can it maintain that?
Can China become a global leader in the Internet of Things?
With companies like Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent branching out into new areas, China is witnessing the rise of a new breed of digital conglomerates.