Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp said on Thursday that it hired a top executive from Google Inc in a bid to boost its overseas business.
Hugo Barra, who was Google's vice-president of product management for the company's Android operating system, will join Xiaomi in October as head of international business development, Lei Jun, founder and chief executive officer of the Beijing-based Xiaomi, said on his Sina micro blog.
"Barra's entry into Xiaomi signals the speeding up of the company's globalization drive. Xiaomi started to tap the market outside the Chinese mainland by launching mobile phones in Hong Kong and Taiwan in April. It's likely that Xiaomi will expand to other overseas markets after Barra joins the team," the company said in a statement.
Xiaomi, which is backed by investors including Temasek Holdings Pte and Qiming Venture Partners, said earlier this month that it had completed its fourth round of funding, giving it a valuation of $10 billion.
The latest round of funding has also made Xiaomi, which sells its phones directly through its website, the fourth-largest Internet company in China, behind e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, service portal provider Tencent Holdings Ltd and search giant Baidu Inc, which is an astonishing achievement given the fact that Xiaomi only released its first phone in 2011.
Barra, who joined Google in March 2008, said in his Google + Web page that he will join the Xiaomi team in China to help the company expand its product portfolios and business globally.
"I'm really looking forward to this new challenge, and I'm particularly excited about the opportunity to continue help drive the Android system," he said.
Google has also confirmed that Barra has left.
"We wish Hugo Barra the best. We'll miss him at Google and we're excited that he is staying within the Android ecosystem," the company said in a statement.
Xiaomi didn't reveal which overseas markets will be the focus of its globalization drive, but James Yan, an analyst at International Data Corp, a global market intelligence firm, said that the company may first expand to markets in Southeast Asia later this year and then tap the European and US markets early next year.
"Although the Chinese mobile phone market is huge, it's still crucial for companies to expand to other markets if they want to be stronger and bigger," said Yan.
Yan said Barra is probably going to focus on the development of applications and software after joining Xiaomi. It's also likely that the company will hire another international executive, who will take charge of device development, he said.
Data from several Internet consultancy firms showed that Xiaomi sold more smartphones than Apple Inc in China in the second quarter of the year. Figures from IDC said that Xiaomi's ranking is still lower than Apple, but among the top 10 best sellers in China between April and June.
The fast-growing Xiaomi booked 13.27 billion yuan ($2.15 billion) in revenue for the first half, exceeding the amount it recorded for the whole of last year, which stood at 12.6 billion yuan, according to the company's financial report.
Xiaomi has won sales with its inexpensive handsets running Google's Android operating system. While Apple sells the iPhone 5 on its Chinese website starting from 5,288 yuan, Xiaomi's most expensive handset is priced at 1,699 yuan.
However, in order to conquer overseas markets, Xiaomi will still need to work on its relationship with overseas operators, analysts said.
"It also needs to hire a lot of people who can help run Xiaomi's business and offices abroad. It will be another challenge for Xiaomi's further expansion globally," said Yan.