Xiaomi expands with HDTV deal

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Xiaomi expands with HDTV deal

Xiaomi is broadening its horizon in Korea by expanding its online distribution channels and introducing new product categories, a move that threatens the dominance of local tech giants Samsung and LG Electronics.

The Chinese manufacturer, with a reputation for selling products with functionality at affordable prices, is offering Korean consumers a reasonably-priced high-definition television.

E-commerce players Gmarket and Auction said on Monday that they will sell Xiaomi’s 40-inch smart TV for 489,000 won ($405). The announcement follows E-Mart’s move earlier this month to sell the same product.

The retailers are the first to offer Xiaomi’s TV for sale. Presently, the company’s primary products in Korea consist of a portable power charger, smart band and smaller lifestyle items.

Xiaomi’s 40-inch TV features a full HD display by Sharp with a 176-degree viewing angle. The Android-based TV also supports a range of applications from the Mi store.

While Xiaomi’s products often sell for bargain prices, the difference on comparable TVs isn’t as considerable. Samsung Electronics’ and LG Electronics’ 40-inch TVs are available for between 500,000 won and 600,000 won.

Xiaomi has a wide range of electronics products cheap enough to attract tech-savvy Korean consumers, prompting local online and brick-and-mortar retailers to court distribution agreements with the tech player.

11st, a leading e-commerce player, fostered a partnership with Xiaomi last year to sell the manufacturer’s products on their site.

The online retailer went on to announce another agreement with ZMI, a subsidiary of Xiaomi, to become an official distribution channel for products made by the affiliate.

Earlier this month, the manufacturer signed an agreement with two contract sellers - Youmi and Koma Trade - to distribute its products in Korea.

The expansion of distribution channels is in line with Xiaomi’s efforts to reach more Korean consumers, although the company has refrained from officially launching a Korean office.

Liu De, co-founder and vice president of Xiaomi, said during his visit to Korea last year that Xiaomi will continue to increase the range of products available in Korea.

The most difficult initiative for the company is bringing in its signature smartphones. Xiaomi’s smartphones are still not available at Korea’s regular phone stores, though special selling events have popped up several times.

Most recently, Daiso, the equivalent of a dollar store, sold limited units of Redmi 3 models in January in partnership with wireless carrier KT.

Online retailer Interpark also launched the same product under a partnership with KT in early January but abruptly withdrew sales of the smartphone after just two days. The company said KT demanded it stop selling the phone, saying there was a legal issue related to selling the phone.

But market watchers say local smartphone makers put pressure on the seller over concerns the Chinese manufacturer would cut into their market share.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [park.eunjee@joongang.co.kr]
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