Just weeks after Xiaomi overtook Huawei and LG to become the world’s third-largest smartphone maker, The Guardian reports that the Chinese handset maker’s chief executive and founder Lei Jun is out with a bold prediction that his company could move past Samsung and Apple to become the world’s largest smartphone maker within the next five to ten years.
Xiaomi has been making impressive strides within the smartphone market, taking advantage of the massive populations in its homeland China and nearby India as key regions for it success. Over the past few years, the four-year-old smartphone maker has recruited former Google executive Hugo Barra, more than doubled its sales following international expansion and even outsold Apple in China during the first quarter.
“I believe that no one thought the Xiaomi from three years ago, which just made its first phone, would later rank as the third largest player,” Lei said at China’s World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, after arriving two hours late. “India is becoming our largest overseas market. Within five or 10 years, we have the opportunity to become the number one smartphone company in the world.”
Xiaomi has quickly become known as the “Apple of China,” although that title might not have to do entirely with how popular the smartphone maker is in the world’s most populous country. Rather, the Chinese handset manufacturer has been called out on multiple occasions for nonchalantly copying the look and feel of the iPhone and iPad with its affordable Mi-branded devices.
“I’ll stand a little bit harsh, I don’t see it as flattery,” said Apple design boss Jony Ive when asked about Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi, described as “the Apple of China” in an interview with Vanity Fair. “When you’re doing something for the first time, you don’t know it’s gonna work. You spend seven or eight years working on something, and then it’s copied. I think it is really straightforward. It is theft and it is lazy. I don’t think it is OK at all.”
Despite the success, Xiaomi still has quite a lot of ground to make up on its competitors if it truly wants to be crowned the world’s largest smartphone maker. Samsung and Apple continue to dominate the market, combining to account for 37% global share in the third quarter. Meanwhile, Xiaomi sits in a distant third place with 5.6% market share for the three-month period.
Apple appears convinced that Xiaomi’s bold prediction is easier said than done.
“It is easy to say, it is more difficult to do,” Bruce Sewell, Apple’s general counsel and senior vice president of legal and government affairs, told the conference when asked about Lei’s bold claims which would require Xiaomi to displace Apple in second place, adding that there were “many good competitive phones in China.”
Nevertheless, Xiaomi is not alone in its fight for smartphone domination. Financial Times recently reported that Xiaomi has lined up $1.5 billion in venture funding as part of a valuation exceeding $40 billion. Russian internet company DST, which also backed companies like Alibaba, Facebook and Airbnb, is one of the investors currently in negotiations with the Chinese handset maker.
Xiaomi was founded in 2010 and launched its first smartphone in China in 2011. The handset maker shipped 18 million smartphones during the third quarter, compared to 5.2 million units in the year-ago quarter, and Lei projects that its user base will triple from 70 million to 200 million users in the next year. Expansion into new markets, including Asia and Europe, will prove pivotal to that growth.
“In this magic land, we produced not only a company like Alibaba, but a small miracle like Xiaomi,” Lei said.
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