Xiaomi Mi3 sold out in mere seconds, but Flipkart startegy may backfire

Last month, everyone was excited about Xiaomi. A look at the Mi 3 specs and price, and you wouldn’t doubt the frenzy either. The company decided to go the Motorola way and opted for the online distribution model with an exclusive tie-up with Flipkart, rather than setting up a local sales base or its own online retail channel. However, that arrangement hasn't quite worked as expected. That's down to the lack of information about availability, Flipkart's troubles in dealing with heavy traffic and the new registration process that hasn’t gone down well with several shoppers.


The Xiaomi Mi 3 went on sale on July 22, and the company had claimed to receive around 1,00,000 registrations by July 21 itself. Only registered users could buy the device the next day. However, pre-registration didn’t guarantee you a unit, and it only meant you were eligible to buy the phone. As soon as the Mi 3 went live on the site, Flipkart couldn’t handle the traffic and the site crashed temporarily. Within 40 minutes, Flipkart claimed the Mi 3 was out of stock, but the site promptly said it would bring in the next batch on July 29 while the registration would begin on July 28. And to top it all, the second batch apparently sold in five seconds.


Its third batch sold out at a record less than two seconds and we saw a similar figure of 2.4 seconds for its latest flash sale that took place yesterday. Two seconds may sound unbelievable? This was possible as Flipkart had changed the process for the second batch wherein users simply needed to add the device to their carts, and could make the payment any time later that day.  All the hype has generated one simple question: How many Mi 3 units have been sold so far?


An earlier report by BGR claimed the number to be around 20,000, while Zauba and import-export tracking site, shows that only 10,400 units of Mi 3 units were brought to India on July 25. If these details are to be believed than Flipkart may have put up approximately 10,000 units on sale each of the previous two times. It then put up 15,000 units on sale, and today's flash sal will see 20,000 units go up on sale. And when it is back in stock next week (which we suspect it will), then we could be in for a re-run of the out-of-stock drama next week too, when the Mi 3 will be back on sale.


It would also be safe to assume that Xiaomi was gauging the response to the relatively new Chinese brand in India and has been cautious about the number of units it has shipped to the country. In that case, the question many are asking is why did the company allow up to one lakh registrations if it had just 10,000 units. It wouldn't have been able to meet the tenfold demand, anyway. It should also be noted that Flipkart claimed to have around 250,000 potential buyers on the Mi 3 page when the second batch went on sale. So the demand was several times the meagre number of units available, if the actual sales figures are true.



Xiaomi is now also being accused of building up the demand, while not being able to deliver. Flipkart has taken criticism for its inability to handle large traffic. Xiaomi has been the biggest loser though, since some users have conveniently opted for another phone through Flipkart after being frustrated with the whole conundrum. This also raises questions about exclusive tie-ups to sell devices and whether they are really worth it, especially given the problems faced by Flipkart during the Moto G sale too.


We cannot even say that we didn't expect this from Xiaomi, which is known for flash sales. It usually reveals the number of units, puts them on sale, and ends up selling them in minutes. It doesn’t use any kind of advertising and relies on its social media channels to reveal the launch dates and other information. Xiaomi devices have got popular by mere word of mouth that spreads through people and social channels.


If it planned a similar strategy for India, then it could begin to annoy users soon. The company has already started receiving flak and negative feedback. For a new entrant trying to form a customer base here, especially considering the growth potential and the saturation of vendors, it better sort out the chinks before its too late.


Moreover, if OnePlus One, yet another Chinese brand with superior specs, manages to nail the price and purchase model, it could further affect Xiaomi's India dreams. Read our Xiaomi Mi 3 review, to find out if it is worth buying. And for those who are unable to get their hands on the device, check out our four alternatives to the Mi 3.

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