Ratan Tata has acquired a stake in Chinese handset maker Xiaomi, the first investment by any Indian in the smartphone maker.The company declined to disclose the quantum and value of the stake, which Tata Group’s former chief has picked in his personal capacity.
“We are truly excited to have Mr Tata on board. We will seek his advice in our journey to becoming an Indian company,” Xiaomi India Head Manu Jain told PTI. Tata, who retired as head of over $100-billion conglomerate in December 2012 and currently serves as chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, has emerged as a major venture capital investor since his retirement. Tata has already made personal investments in homegrown e-commerce players like Snapdeal, Urban Ladder, Bluestone and Cardekho.com. In March this year, he also invested in mobile commerce firm Paytm.
“India is our biggest market outside of mainland China and also an extremely important one. Our goal is to become number one in the next 3-5 years and we are keen on partnerships here,” Xiaomi co-founder and President Bin Lin said. Only few days back, Xiaomi announced its first ‘made for India’ handset Mi 4i, priced at Rs 12,999.
“Mr Tata is one of the most well-respected business leaders in the world. An investment by him is an affirmation of the strategy we have undertaken in India so far. This is just the start of an exciting journey, and we are looking forward to bringing more products into India,” Xiaomi CEO Jun said. “We want to become an Indian company. That is why we are building an R&D team here and setting up data centre. We want to manufacture and also invest in start ups in India,” Lin said.
Indian corporate honchos have been aggressively investing in the burgeoning online retail sector. Wipro Chairman Azim Premji has investments in Myntra and Snapdeal, while his rival and Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy (through Catamaran Ventures) started a joint venture with Amazon to help small and medium businesses come online. In December last year, Xiaomi raised $1.1 billion, valuing the firm at $45 billion. Often touted as the ‘Apple of China’, the company has grown to become a major competition to global giants like Samsung and Apple. While the company already ranks at the top in Chinese market, in India it is among the top five players as per the estimates of research firm Gartner.