Chinese smartphone maker hires Google executive, Hugo Barra

30 August 2013

Not many smartphone users outside China, Hong Kong and Taiwan might have heard of Xiaomi, but with the company hiring Google executive Hugo Barra as vice president of Xiaomi Global, that could change soon.

According to analysts the move came as a clear sign that the three-year old company planned to break into international markets.

Xiaomi Tech, founded only three years ago, has a valuation of $10 billion today after it completed its latest round of fundraising earlier this month.

In other words, Xiaomi was now on par with Lenovo which has a market value of $10 billion and almost twice BlackBerry's current market valuation of $5.5 billion.

The company only started selling smartphones in October 2011, but in a recent move upped its target for 2013 to 20 million smartphones, up from its previous 15 million goal.

Xiaomi which has picked up employees of Microsoft, Motorola and (of course) Google, now adds Barra, who joins former colleague Lin Bin, previously the vice president of Google China's Engineering Research Institute and engineering director of Google before co-founding Xiaomi as its president.

At Google, Barra served as the vice president with oversight on the product team for Google's Android mobile operating system, which powers the vast majority of smartphones in China.

Xiaomi is among several Chinese smartphone makers that have been taking market share in China away from the likes of Apple and Nokia.

These Chinese companies buoyed by the success against their more established rivals are now increasingly looking at bigger markets with the likes of Xiaomi, Lenovo and Huawei set to emerge as strong players on the global scene.

According to analysts, Xiaomi had a 5 per cent share of the smartphone market in China in the second quarter, putting it well behind the leader, Samsung Electronics of South Korea, which had an 18 per cent share, but it still held a slim lead over Apple, with 4.8 per cent.

In a statement posted on Google Plus, Barra said that he intended to help Xiaomi ''expand their incredible product portfolio and business globally.''

''I'm really looking forward to this new challenge, and am particularly excited about the opportunity to continue to help drive the Android ecosystem,'' he wrote.

Xiaomi founder, Lei Jun welcoming Barra to China in a microblog posting wrote: ''Hugo Barra will indeed join Xiaomi in early October, and he'll take charge of expanding international business.''

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