You get in life what you have the courage to ask for. It is the right question that leads to the right answer which takes you further. Over the last few years, a few personalities have managed to influence us in the direction of growth with their bold questions and the path-breaking answers.
Manu Kumar Jain, Global Vice President of Xiaomi and Managing Director of Xiaomi India is one such influential Indian (to the say the least). The man behind the growth trajectory of Jabong, IIT Delhi alumni and now an integral part of the Xiaomi machinery, Jain has influenced the minds of budding leaders time and again.
What is the question he asks when in a deadlock situation, we ask, “What is the impact this idea would create”, he answers. Jain’s approach towards life and diligence towards work is indeed awe-inspiring.
In a candid conversation with Social Samosa, Manu Kumar Jain reveals aspects of his journey that have never been shared before.
Right answers are derived from the right questions, which take you further. One question in your opinion that changed your life completely, carving you into the person you are today?
I have been driven by the needs of the customers throughout my professional endeavours, and tried to take every decision keeping in mind, who it is meant for. This philosophy extends not just for my work life, but also my personal decisions. At Xiaomi also, the work we do is driven by our philosophy – Innovation for everyone. The products we design, the services we offer, the brand experience we provide, these are all aimed at ensuring that the innovative technology we provide reach every individual, and is able to transform their lives for the better. Therefore, an important question for me at every stage is, Is this the best decision for the consumer?
The Indian society is challenged by the shackles of dogmas and stereotypes, many of which you have known to go beyond through perseverance and courage. Which have been the biggest hurdles you had to get through?
My entire journey with Xiaomi has been extremely personal for me. Xiaomi first entered in India in 2014. We started as an online brand, and at the time the smartphone market was heavily offline-driven with over 300 players in the market. It was a very challenging market to begin with.
Many told us that we were bound to fail with our online strategy and minimal expenses towards traditional advertising. However, we viewed this as an untapped opportunity.
We came in as an online only launch, and held our first sale with our online partner Flipkart, we decided we would sell about 10,000 smartphones hopefully, give that we had 10,000 likes on our Facebook page from existing Mi Fans in India.
However, when we went live with our sale, millions showed up to buy the phone, and for the first time in its history, Flipkart crashed. That is when we knew that our perseverance and courage to choose the unconventional path paid off.
What are the questions you ask to open up potential solutions and possibilities, when stuck in a deadlock?
I would ask myself how is the specific situation or decision going to matter in the long run. If we are exploring a potential idea, I ask what is the impact this idea would create, and how would it serve as an innovative solution to our Mi Fans.
Tell us how asking the right questions have made you stronger and helped you go further in life?
It has been crucial for me to ask the right questions as it helps ensure I have clarity of vision. Like we mentioned earlier, asking the right questions is half the battle won. In fact, at Xiaomi, we also motivate our employees and Mi Fans to be inquisitive, and ask us questions that will help ignite new, innovative ideas, and address key issues which we wouldn’t know have been aware of.
What would be the three daily habits that helped you to go further and become what you are today? How did you inculcate them in the first place?
I enjoy a healthy workout regime, spending quality time with family, reading and staying adept with social media. I find these habits to be essential to my holistic growth, and ensure I make time for these three activities each day.
Who is the one person you look forward to and who has inspired you to shatter the glass ceiling?
I was driven to create a meaningful impact and find solutions that would help make a lasting positive difference in society. I often sought inspiration from people like Sir Ratan Tata as well as the Founder and CEO of Xiaomi, Lei Jun, who displayed the power and dedication to bring about such positive change. Xiaomi was the opportunity which helped me effectively use the power of internet to bring in greater smart tech experience and its long-term benefits to people everywhere.
Albert Einstein once said, “A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new.” Which is the one mistake in your career or life that eventually helped you become a better person and professional and grow in life? If you had the opportunity, would you do it differently?
An instance I’d highlight here is when Xiaomi as an online brand decided to begin its offline operations. This was a much-needed step as majority of India’s consumer population was heavily offline based. And in order to ensure that we were able to fully implement our philosophy – Innovation for everyone, we hoped to reach out to every customer in India. We needed an offline strategy that would help bring this to life. When we initiated this, and began setting up offline heavily everywhere.
We then reflected on this decision. And we learnt that it’s not about how far we go, but how deep we go in our offline reach. We currently have Preferred Partners program wherein we identified highly effective offline stores in clusters of cities, and partnered with them on exclusive terms.
We also went ahead and partnered with multiple renowned Large Format Retailers in India who had a solid customer outreach across offline markets. In addition we opened up our own flagship Mi Homes allowing customers to directly interact with Xiaomi brand. We are now present in 60+ cities and have a significant 20% market presence despite having begun our offline journey in 2017.
Looking back which is the one moment that made it all worthwhile?
It would definitely be the moment when my son was born, and I came back to Bangalore to be with my family. That also led to the beginning of my Xiaomi journey, and I instantly connected with Xiaomi’s philosophy of ‘innovation for everyone’, which I found to be truly unique and promising.
Which was the one advice/tip that helped you conquer all your fears?
I’ve learnt that every member of the team, no matter how junior or young he/she may be, has the right to disagree and openly express their views. This is also reflected in our work culture at Xiaomi. We actively promote an entrepreneurial mindset, wherein every individual at Xiaomi irrespective of their title or position is encouraged to share their ideas boldly, and allowed the space to innovate.
Well begun is half done! Please share a few tips for those who’re pursuing their dreams and need that inspiration to take the first step
To every individual who is pursuing his/her dreams and hopes to succeed, I would say always begin on an optimistic note. At Xiaomi we “always believe that something wonderful is about to happen”.