Just finished reading Little Rice the latest book by Clay Shirky after a recommendation from Russell Davies.
First up I have to say training my brain to read Xiaomi as ‘show (but like shower) – me’ has been less than easy and it is safe to safe I will not be conversing in Mandarin (or Cantonese) anytime soon.
It is a short read – more a long report than a book (not that it effected the price!) but was perfect commute fodder and like some of the Seth Godin books in the past I rather appreciated the brevity rather than stretching an idea in search of a word count (Chris Anderson I’m looking at you.)
Xiaomi is the hot mobile phone manufacturer (and software provider) in China at the moment and the book is basically a view of a number of social and economic trends through the lens of their rise. The Chinese economy and the tension with their political environment, perceptions of malfeasance via Chinese based software services, the Shenzhen manufacturing ethos and their cheap clones of successful electronics (especially phones) but also a company (Xiaomi) that exemplifies the spirit of the ‘Lean Startup‘ concept.
A laser focus on user needs, taking every opportunity to gather feedback and engage with users. The split of their users into essentially two personas – ‘fever fans’ who are early adopter, power users who provide detailed technical feedback and who are treated almost as part of the company and ‘flood fans’ who are more traditional consumers whose feedback is more ’emotional’ but provides insight in to trends and opportunities – is really interesting and clearly they spend a huge amount of time cultivating these groups (they avoid traditional marketing and prefer to focus on this networked marketing instead.) Constant (weekly) software upgrades and iterations – again always working to make sure that these are user driven. Focusing on online sales only and offering pre-sale signups (to judge demand rather than manufacturing on spec) and flash-sales (to create buzz and again stimulate demand). It is a hardware company operating like the best of Silicon Valley start-ups (from central Beijing) and in only five years it has risen to a dominant position in the local (huge) Chinese market – the challenge will be whether it makes the leap to global player or is held back by the requirements of its governments and the concerns of others.
Really enjoyed reading it and I learned quite a bit about both the mobile phone industry and modern China.