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GMIC2012 Wrap-Up: Lei Jun on the Role of Insanity in Business

Are you making yourself crazy?

This was the defining question of the last GMIC2012 Mainstage event, as activities wrapped up on Friday. After an exhausting two days of speeches and panels, Lei Jun, CEO of Xiaomi, gave his closing remarks to an anxious audience.  Normally bursting with enthusiasm, though also noticeably fatigued, his sleek presentation awoke the audience a bit as he explained his business philosophy and the nature of his company Xiaomi.

In his discussion, Mr. Lei acknowledged that Xiaomi was a “newcomer in the mobile industry,” starting originally with a team of five people only two years ago. Since then though, he said, they have risen to be a key player in the industry, and now he is often approached by people asking why he is so successful.

Xiaomi has received a lot of press since it released its first mobile phone last year to a market that had many experts skeptical of the company’s success. Since then, it has gained in popularity and recently announced that its monthly revenues exceed $158 million. This might be in part to Lei Jun’s philosophy, which he went on to explain.

One tenet of his philosophy was “less is more.” According to Mr. Lei, “if we expand too much, we do not necessarily succeed.” In his view, in a highly commoditized world, there is an excess supply, so companies have to focus on a particular area.

The most difficult business, in his view, is mineral water. If you can excel in a simple product for a long time, you can “last for 100 years.” He asserted that beverage businesses like Coca-Cola and Wahaha were highly successful because they focused on water for a long time.

This connects with Xiaomi in a way, he said, as the company has set its sights for quite some time on “one phone, one model.” For 9 months they have remained committed to optimizing the product.

Taking a stab at Nokia, he criticized what he saw as a nonsensical naming scheme. Much like Apple, he says that Xiaomi aims to simplify by avoiding strange numbers or letters that often confuse people. Just stick to one naming scheme, Xiaomi.

Ultimately, it comes down to how crazy you are about your product. He believes that the reason such software companies as Blizzard, makers of Starcraft and World of Warcraft, do so well is because they “go to the extreme” and focus on very few products. They have a “spirit of dedication and commitment,” said Mr. Lei.

Still, success is only possible if one surprises the consumer. He alluded to an example of his own visit to Dubai where he was able to see the famous Burj Al Arab Hotel. Though he had heard of its grandeur, when he visited, he was disappointed. He felt that the place was a bit fake. It was not that the quality was poor, rather it was that his expectations were higher. In other words, even if a consumer is expecting high quality, always give them something more.  Likewise, for a product that is expected to be poor quality, give the consumer something better.

For Lei Jun, when it comes to success, you must always “exceed expectations.” It does not matter how you dedicate yourself to this ideal, as long as you are fast.

“The best kong fu is the fastest kong fu,” says Mr. Lei.

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