This lockdown now is nearly 100 days; the fight against Covid-19 has only united us and in a way has prepped us all to adapt to the many ‘new normals’ that it brought with itself. The nation-wide lockdown is slowly being lifted across orange and green zones and life is crawling back to a new-normalcy.
Businesses and brands are now are making their way back into the business; planning their communication plans for a new world post the covid-19 lockdown, keeping a note of some of the new buzz words such as ‘social distancing’, ‘work from home’ and the latest one; ‘atmanirbhar’.
Xiaomi, on the other hand has been launching products even during this lockdown. Recently they launched an innovative campaign #NoStringsAttached to announce its first audio product under Redmi – Redmi Earbuds S. The topical video is a refreshing rap keeping the audio category in mind, in this lockdown featuring Xiaomi employees in a very engaging and off-beat format.
In this story of Medianews4u’s super successful brand series, Back to Business, we spoke to Anuj Sharma, Chief Marketing Officer, Xiaomi India
How are you coping up with the impact of Covid-19 on Xiaomi? How effectively have you used the lockdown period?
Covid-19 has impacted all businesses in one way or the other. Despite the various lockdown measures in place, we witnessed a huge demand for our products and continued to operate under a strict business continuity plan.
During the entirety of the lockdown, we were constantly monitoring the situation and took decisions with the objective of meeting the consumers’ demand. We planned our product launches at a time when we were able to get them delivered, as soon as the lockdown restriction started easing up.
Even in such unprecedented times, we endeavored to prioritized consumers’ needs and demands. We focused our efforts in pushing the boundaries of technological innovation in the segment and bringing the best in class products under the Redmi portfolio. Keeping customer demand in view, we unveiled the Redmi Note 9 Pro and Redmi Note 9 Pro Max, thereby offering a perfect amalgamation of Aura design, Pro Cameras and Max Performance to our Mi Fans. We launched Redmi Creator Academy, a series of virtual masterclasses allowing our fans and consumers to learn new skills across various disciplines. We recently also launched the Redmi Earbuds S, which crossed 100K units in just a week.
In addition to this, we began a special initiative during the lockdown called Mi Commerce, where the consumers have the option of browsing online and buying the latest Xiaomi products from their nearest offline retail store. Xiaomi as a business will be thinking of more Omnichannel solutions where the difference between online and offline will start blurring. Consumers can consider Mi commerce a step in that direction. As we move forward, we will look at introducing newer formats to cater to the consumer/retailer need.
The quest for a solution to a particular crisis helps invent new business opportunities and sometimes leads to a revision of existing business models. What sort of innovation have or will the Covid-19 pandemic bring to Xiaomi?
At Xiaomi India, all our products are designed and launched keeping the consumers’ needs & requirements in mind. We also aim to ensure that our Mi Fans and consumers can make the most out of our products and services.
During the lockdown, we launched the Mi Robot Vacuum-Mop P, an AI-driven home cleaning device understanding the need of the hour. We also came up with a new hyperlocal O2O channel i.e. Mi Commerce, enabling the consumer to discover and express interest in the products from their nearby store. Through this, our aim was to offer a rich shopping experience while regulating crowds, maintaining social distance, and ensuring the safety of users and retailers at Xiaomi retail stores. The way that Mi commerce is designed is such that the retailer is the one who will be handling the logistics as they have shop boys, promoters, buddies, etc. The idea was that they do the delivery, in the 5-15 km radius around the store. Being a product discovery solution, it enables a consumer to discover and express interest in a product from a store nearby. The transaction is not done on the Mi Commerce platform but collected offline. As a consumer-first brand, we are always looking at solutions which can bridge the gap between consumer demand and supply.
While some parts of the country have become Covid-19 free, cities like Mumbai and Delhi are still in a lockdown situation. How are you planning to resume business across cities that are not in the Red?
As a part of Unlock 1.0, business across the country has resumed. We are looking at end-to-end solutions for our business operations – from manufacturing the phones till the final delivery. All our warehouses have implemented safety and hygiene methods even before the lockdown was implemented, including wearing masks, regular sanitation and sanitization of the entire facility.
Over the past weeks and even through the lockdown, the MHA gave multiple guidelines which opened up intra and interstate transport. So, we are extremely happy to report that we have been able to move the finished goods from our factories to our warehouses and wherever required from our warehouses to our partner warehouses, both online and offline. We have also begun shipping products purchased on Mi.com. However, while we are ramping up activities, we are also ensuring very high standards of safety & hygiene including testing and mandatory quarantine for manpower moving across Districts/States. We are functioning at a lower capacity right now but will keep ramping it up as and when the government sanctions. Hopefully in a few weeks we will be functioning at 100% capacity.
What will be your communication strategy post the opening of the lockdown? Understandably bringing customers back to you would be difficult. What will be the objective of the marketing strategy?
Xiaomi has always been an online-first brand. Hence, for marketing too most of our activities have been through online and social platforms. Being a dynamic brand, we have adapted to newer ways of product launches by bringing them online, thus further reducing spends on mass media. At Xiaomi, all products are designed and launched keeping in mind the evolving needs of our Mi Fans and consumers. We make efforts to constantly engage with our consumers through our multiple social media handles like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Youtube and Instagram among others. We have used digital platforms from time to time to connect with and educate users for multiple reasons.
A very recent example of a digital effort to engage with our user base was the introduction of our ‘Redmi Creator Academy’- an online series on gaining skill sets across various disciplines. At Xiaomi, our strongest pillar of support throughout have been the Mi Fans. Mi Fans are connected to the brand through Mi Community, the official digital platform or community forum built to connect with fans for regular engagement and continuous feedback on our products which enables us to better our products and elevate our consumer experience. Even the lockdown has not been able to slow our efforts through our continuous fan meetups, now being executed digitally with Fan clubs from across the nation.
Our focus was not only to launch these products in the market, but also ensure that our Mi Fans and consumers across India could make the most out of them.
How did you keep the morale of the employees during this lockdown period? On a personal note, what kept you positive?
During the lockdown, employees across companies and industries were challenged with working from home, which can get pretty intense for a team that is used to regular in-person interactions. In times like these, keeping morale high becomes a challenge, but we have been tackling this by adopting a ‘people centric’ approach to work, extending all possible professional and personal support our employees may need. We knew that it was important to communicate regularly with our employees – and ensured a weekly virtual all hands with our leadership where employees were given real time updates on business, the macro environment, our plan for the upcoming week/fortnight/month, and how we plan to use this time to the best of our abilities. At the same time, we provided an open platform for them to ask any questions they may have and share personal contributions made so far. It’s been heartening and inspiring for everyone to see and hear these stories from the employees who were going out to distribute ration, food and hygiene kits to those who did not have access to them, take care of stray animals, etc.
In order to keep everyone’s spirits up, we also organized activities on a regular basis through video calls and webinars like Story Telling by Manu for the employees’ children, mentally engaging things like quizzes and challenges, keeping fitness regimes on point with kickboxing sessions, Zumba classes, Chair Yoga, etc. interspersed with talent hunt competitions and more. We also used the scale that video calls offered to extend our Learning & Development efforts quite efficiently and were able to seamlessly migrate all our classroom/in-person sessions to a virtual facilitator-led format – these saw a huge uptake and participation rates were the highest ever.
This time was challenging but the fact that our entire team was virtually connected and working relentlessly was, and is what keeps me positive.
Can you elaborate on the recent campaign?
We conceptualized a week-long campaign to announce Redmi’s entry into the audio market with Redmi Earbuds S. The campaign started with Xiaomi’s leadership dropping cues and creating buzz around Redmi’s foray into the audio category on Twitter which culminated with the rap video on Xiaomi’s social media channels. The preheat videos spoke about the challenges with wired earphones across different life scenarios such as working out, gaming, eating food etc. The launch video brought together several of Xiaomi’s employees who participated in the rap video showcasing all the KSPs of the product in a fun and engaging manner such as a water drop test for IP rating, table thumping for the high bass it offers and several others. It is only the first step into audio for Redmi and has immense potential for expansion. We ensured the involvement of our employees in an off-beat and engaging campaign. The team had a lot of fun.
We customized the product and the marketing behind it specifically for the Indian consumer. Redmi TWS appeals to a large spectrum of users who are looking to buy an all-rounder within their range. The ideology was to break the clutter and have an ordinary smartphone lover enjoy a sleek and compact earbud at an affordable price segment. An interesting insight to share is that a lot of mobile gamers are Redmi users. Understanding this, we decided to include a separate gaming mode which has a low latency of 122ms and therefore provides a better gaming experience as well. The Redmi Earbuds S comes with one of the most compact cases of truly wireless solutions and has ENC for calls.