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Tech Superhero- Lei Jun: The Steve Jobs of China

 

Lei Jun, the man who was born on 16th of June 1969 is known today as the “Steve Jobs of china”. The underlying reason behind this nickname hides an adventurous story of his professional life.

He used to belong to a mediocre family in Xianto, a midsize city in Hubei province, China. He was always good in mathematics, & after completing high school from Mainyang Middle School, he entered computer science department of Wuhan University on a scholarship in 1987. In his library, he found a Chinese translated book namely “Fire in the Valley”: the making of the personal computer, the seminal history of U.S tech industry & the early careers of Bill Gates & Steve Jobs. This book was his inspiration behind what he is today.

Lei got his degree within two years in 1992 & joined Kingsoft , then a small, Beijing based purveyor of office productivity software that was utterly copying Microsoft. He used to be more diligent than the city natives and after five years he was entitled Kingsoft’s chief executive officer & ran the company alongside its founder. His name was imprinted in the newspaper in late 1990s as the “model worker” of Zohogguahcon, Beijing’s emerging technology districts.

It was not an easy ride for Lei for Kingsoft was staving off bankruptcy. Piracy of its products was rampant & its word processing software WPS office went head to head with Microsoft word. Over the period Lei tried to control the situation focusing into video games & security software & spinning off an e commerce company Joy.com, which was acquired by Amazon.com in 2004, worth $70 million.

In 2007, Lei took Kingsoft as public raising $99 million on Hong Kong stock exchange largely because of its strength in online gaming. He soon resigned from Kingsoft two months after the incident.

Later on Lei started a personal venture fund investing on mobile, social networking, and e commerce companies. In the fall of 2009, Lei started meeting Lin Bin, a local Google executive with notions of founding a startup. Lin was in charge of Google’s mobile efforts in china. Lin & Lei met each other several times in lobbies of hotels across Beijing and discussed Google’s relationship with a mobile company UCweb, which Lei had invested in & then used to discuss Lin’s entrepreneurial ambitions.

By this time lei was about to turn 40 and he was infatuated with Smartphone craze. He used to carry dozens of Smartphone in his backpack which he used to study profoundly. He used to dismantle Amazon kindle and understand how it worked. He was obsessed with software that runs Smartphone & devised ideas on how it could be improved for china’s massive population.

In early 2010, when Google declared reorganizing its operations in china due to massive demand by the Chinese government, Lin approached Lei to start a company together. Lei had a plan to start a company tailored not just into mobile software but actual Smartphone as well. He always wanted to sell online so that they could save up to 20-25 per cent cut paid to retailers and deliver high quality phones at prices affordable to Chinese masses who on average earned a little more than $2000 a year.

On April 6, 2010, the two partners decided that lei would be the CEO & product chief; Lin, president in charge of daily operations. When it came to giving a name, the first choice was Redstar but the trademark was already taken. Then the word “Mi” or rice in Chinese was suggested. They considered using Chinese word for small rice or Xiaomi (pronounced as she-yow-mee ). People thought they are crazy to enter the mobile market since the competition was fierce. Within few years Xiaomi Tech was giving head to head competition to Apple and Samsung and eventually Lei is known among Chinese as the “Steve Jobs of China”..

As of April 2014, Xiaomi Tech’s net worth is US$3.9 billion and revenue of $5.22 billion (2013 latest). Xiaomi Tech specializes on consumer electronics, computer hardware, computer software, & digital distributions. It currently operates in 13 countries across the world including Brazil, Mexico, Singapore, Hong Kong, & Russia. The key people in this company is Lei Jun himself (CEO) and Lin Bin (president) and Hugo Barra (vice-president).

Xiaomi Tech is one of the privately owned Chinese electronic companies headquartered in Beijing, China, employing more than 3000 people in various countries. Its key offerings include MiPhone, MiBox, MiTalk, MiHome Launcher, Duokan Reader & Micloud & MiTv.

Lei’s future plan is to take Xiaomi beyond China- “we are the world’s largest consumer market. After several decades of effort, this is the trend. Chinese technology companies are coming to the rest of the world”- Lei said.

 

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