Mi Hong Kong opens doors

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has opened its first retail store outside the Mainland.

The Mi Hong Kong store – dubbed Mi Home – is a 270 sqm space inside Hollywood Plaza at 610 Nathan Rd in Mongkok.

We say ‘space’ because the store was created as somewhere “just like home” – somewhere Mi owners, or prospective owners, would feel at home.

As the images released by Xiaomi show it is a lot like an Apple store, but without the vast product range. Instead there are brightly coloured sofas and cushions and giant flat screen TVs.

Hugo Barra, the former Google executive who is now VP of Xiaomi Global, promised last month Xiaomi would create “a service and store experience that feels just like home, we want a place that feels so comfortable you’re just happy to come and hang out”.

As well as allowing customers to try out the handsets and compare models, the store has a service guarantee: customers can bring a phone in to be fixed and wait no longer than 19 minutes before being able to take it away.

Xiaomi was launched in China in 2011 yet has already become the world’s third largest smartphone brand – and the largest in the mainland. Last year it sold 60 million handsets, almost all of them in Mainland China. Founder and CEO Lei Jun, China’s 23rd richest man, is now expanding the brand into other consumer electronics lines.

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And the company has begun what promises to be a relentless march abroad. As well as opening its flagship in Mongkok – almost certainly a test before the concept is rolled out elsewhere – it has started selling accessories like headphones online in the US and Europe.

So far it is not selling handsets in either market, but Mi phones are finding their way into other markets via distributors and grey imports.

Xiaomi launched its new Mi 4i handset in Hong Kong on May 12 at HK$1599 – a handset with a 5.5 inch screen and 15 megapixel forward camera, running Android. At the equivalent of US$206, it is a potential category killer once consumers grow to trust the Mi brand. An Apple iPhone 6 starts at $5588 (US$720). It is Xiaomi’s first phone developed for the global market.

Xiaomi has a small network of 19 retail stores in Mainland China, dubbed Mi Homes and 541 service centres operated by partners in eight markets.

To date most of its handsets are sold online and through a small group of retail partners in Hong Kong and India.

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