Xiaomi wants to double its number of Mi Stores in India from the existing 3000+ over the course of the next two years. The company is also pledging Rs 100 crore as part of its plans to help grow and widen its retail footprint, especially in tier 4, tier 5 cities, where it is not present at the moment.
“We are hoping this will generate employment for around 10,000 more Indians. Our Rs 100-crore growth support package will enable Mi store entrepreneurs to come forward and take up the business. The support package will get deployed over the next few years,” Muralikrishnan B, COO, Mi India told indianexpress.com over a call.
While Mi Studios and Mi Homes focus on the urban cities and metros, Mi Stores are much smaller, but exclusive stores which house products only from the company. Mi Stores are typically around 200-250 square feet in size and these are completely franchise-owned and franchise-operated stores.
Xiaomi, which once started as an online-only brand in India, has managed to carve a space for itself in the offline retail business, and despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the company is keen on doubling down its efforts in this sector. Currently, the offline and online sector have a 50-50 contribution to their overall sales. It is also claiming to have a bigger footprint in the offline retail space compared to brands such as Bata and Samsung.
“Yes, 2020 threw curveballs at all of us and we had to adapt. We also realised that the working capital for a lot of our partners was becoming a problem. So we worked with third-party partners, and arranged the working capital loans for them, so that they can keep their cash flow and working capital rotation going,” he explained.
Another initiative that the brand launched as a result of COVID-19 was Mi Commerce, which was designed to help these Mi Store owners given that many customers were not walking into stores, despite the pent-up demand for phones.
“Mi Commerce is an omnichannel online-to-offline solution. You could go to local.mi.com, it will connect you to the nearest Xiaomi store, based on your GPS location, and it will let you browse the products and order stuff, it will get home-delivered. The shop is coming to your doorstep,” Xiaomi’s COO said.
The company also launched Mi Store on wheels, which was essentially packing a Mi Store inside a van, which would then go from town to town, village to village. It plans to bring this store-on-wheels to other parts of the country as well.
Xiaomi plans to use its support package it across various aspects from helping with store design and retail experience to offline training sessions for the Mi Store owner and the staff.
“What is the right retail experience to offer within the Mi Store. What kind of signage will attract customers the most. We have an in-depth understanding about these things. There’ll be offline training sessions for the Mi Store owner, especially at the launch time and when new products are launched and refresher training is required,” he explained adding all this requires a significant amount of investment from the company’s side.
It will also help Mi Store owners with inventory management systems and plans to build out an Android-based Point of Sale terminal so that owners don’t need a laptop for billing. The brand also plans to focus on marketing and growth for these stores in order to grow these businesses.
The company will also open a Mi Retail Academy to train entrepreneurs from different background across sales and product training, customer management, marketing, in-store designing, etc.
When asked whether there was an appetite for retail stores, given that COVID had reduced customer walk-in, the Xiaomi COO said he was confident of interest and pointed out that Mi Commerce had come as a breakthrough solution, which gave many owners a means to the service customers much beyond their catchment area.
“A Mi Store is a very immersive experience and it is not just about phones. A decent chunk of the business comes from other categories and that’s one big advantage that Mi Stores have over any other phone store,” Murali explained adding that other categories such as Mi TV, earphones, Bluetooth speakers, Mi Notebooks and laptops are also being made available at these Mi Stores to ensure sales are not just limited to phones.