Ziauddin Chowdhury is the Country General Manager of Xiaomi Bangladesh. In this excellent interview with Future Startup, Mr. Ziauddin talks about his journey to what he is doing today, his work as the general country manager of Xiaomi Bangladesh, discusses the state of Xiaomi Bangladesh’s business, operational intricacies, its challenges, and ambition going forward, shares his take on the smartphone market in Bangladesh, how he operates as a leader and his management philosophy, reflects on his strategies for dealing with challenges and stress, and much more.
Future Startup: Could you please tell us about your background and your path to what you are doing today?
Ziauddin Chowdhury: After completing my post-graduation from Stamford University, Bangladesh, with a marketing concentration, I began working in the telecom industry. Over the past 15 years, I have had the opportunity to work for some of the globally renowned brands like Samsung, Huawei, and Nokia.
I acquired practical expertise in sales management, channel development, retail management, business transformation, marketing, and digital transformation as well as business management. My specialization has primarily been in the telecommunications and mobile device industries in the Bangladesh market.
Today, as I look back at the early days of my career, I can say that I have come a long way.
I would not have been able to do it without the unwavering support of my father, who has been a true inspiration to me since I was a child. He has played a pivotal role in shaping me into the man that I am today. I would also like to mention how grateful I am to my daughters for their unconditional love. They are the reason behind my happiness even in these trying times.
Future Startup: Could you please tell us about your work as the Country General Manager of Xiaomi Bangladesh? How do you approach your day? What do you prioritize regularly as part of your responsibility?
Ziauddin Chowdhury: As the Country General Manager of global technology leader Xiaomi, I am responsible for spearheading the overall business operations and sales growth of Xiaomi in Bangladesh. The journey so far has been a truly wonderful learning experience.
I try to approach each day positively. Embracing happiness is vital for a peaceful and productive mind. I begin my day with a warm cup of tea every day. I thoroughly enjoy reading books.
My daughters are my constant source of motivation. Taking some time out of my hectic schedule is essential for my family’s well-being. As a father, I try to leave no stones unturned in ensuring that my daughters have a role model to look up to in their lives.
To sum up, I try to incorporate positivity, productivity, and persistence in my daily schedule, as it is the small inputs that add up to create powerful outputs.
Future Startup: Could you please give us an overview of Xiaomi Bangladesh such as the product and services you offer, your operation, team size, business model, size of business, etc.?
Ziauddin Chowdhury: Xiaomi is one of the leading smartphone brands in Bangladesh. Having been in the country for almost 3 years now, we have seen incredible growth and are working hard towards expanding our portfolio in the country.
Xiaomi has launched numerous smartphones in the country including Mi 11X 5G, Redmi Note 10 Pro, Redmi Note 10, Redmi 9 Power, and Redmi 9T, etc. through authorized Mi stores and partner channels. We have recently brought back one of our bestselling devices in the form of the Redmi Note 8 (2021) version in the Bangladeshi market with powerful features which set it apart in its target segment.
Over 1500 young and energetic people are now working for Xiaomi Brand in Bangladesh and we have a local cluster of enthusiastic individuals who form our core team in Bangladesh. Over the years, I have learned that having amazing people on your team makes work easier.
Being surrounded by a bunch of good people with great souls has helped in getting us through difficult conditions, and that’s why I’d like to acknowledge my team in Xiaomi Bangladesh for their outstanding efforts to ensure our exponential growth throughout the years.
Xiaomi is a fan-centric company and the Mi fans are at the core of our business. We strive to provide the best experience to our customers since entering the Bangladesh market and we will continue to do everything we can to ensure that our customers enjoy a great brand experience.
We have a triathlon business model of hardware, internet services, and new retail, which defines the vision that the company is working towards. We are heavily investing in a new retail strategy to grow and expand our sales network in Bangladesh.
Future Startup: Xiaomi officially entered Bangladesh in 2018, how much has the operation evolved over these years? How big is your operation today in Bangladesh? How do you work with your partners and customers? Could you please give us an insight into how you operate as a company?
Ziauddin Chowdhury: Xiaomi has been officially operating in the Bangladesh market since 17th July 2018. Since day one, we have abided by our principles, which have been diligently followed to ensure our strong presence in the market - promoting local leadership, developing a strong after-sales network, and bringing the latest products and innovative technologies into the market. Leading a robust team of amazing individuals has been a sheer pleasure as we make an effort towards serving the Bangladeshi Mi fans wholeheartedly.
Xiaomi as a brand believes in bringing innovation for everyone. What makes Xiaomi stand apart is the understanding of what the Mi fans want. We ideally differentiate from others because we believe in performing at one aspect extremely well and make certain of the hygiene on all other parameters to suit the needs of the Mi fans at its best.
In our endeavors to make our products accessible for everyone, we are bringing innovative products and technologies since our official launching in the market. The love we have received over the last 03 years has further pushed us to come up with the best technology solutions.
Innovation for all has been an integral part of Xiaomi’s DNA and that is exactly what we aim to do here in Bangladesh as well. We have brought 5G devices such as Mi 11X, NFC enabled handsets, Snapdragon 800 series chipsets, and the highly acclaimed Redmi K20 Pro.
Xiaomi originally started with MIUI, which was a software back in 2010. Then over time, we introduced smartphones as our first product in hardware and slowly grew this into an ecosystem of connected devices across categories based on user demand and requirement.
We have also launched all the products, which were relevant to the market. Bangladesh saw the launch of Redmi Note 10 Pro, Redmi Note 10, Redmi 9 even before many countries in the world.
Xiaomi sells its smartphones and other products through various online partners including Daraz and Robishop etc. We sell our devices across 250+ Authorized Mi stores and 1500+ retailers across the country. Xiaomi has one dedicated call center in Dhaka. Xiaomi has 20+ authorized service centers across the country and all are exclusive service centers for Xiaomi.
Future Startup: Xiaomi has seen excellent consistent growth over the years in Bangladesh. You have a strong loyal customer base. High-quality products at a competitive price have a lot to do with this growth, of course. Apart from the product, what are some of the strategies and activities that helped you to grow the business?
Ziauddin Chowdhury: Xiaomi works on a ‘Fans first’ approach. We love what we do because our Mi Fans love it. Our Mi Fans are a huge global community of passionate users who are intensely loyal to the Xiaomi brand and they actively contribute to the company’s product development. We introduce products and categories based on the needs, demands, and requirements of our Mi fans.
Due to the active participation of our loyal Mi fans, we believe in zero-cost marketing. The Mi Fans ensure the word-of-mouth promotion of our products as they have used them and can vouch for the quality as well as the user experience. This organic reach enables us to reduce costs in advertisements and so we can give the fans our products at reasonable prices with the best specifications.
The Mi Community Bangladesh started on 17th July 2018, on the same day when Xiaomi officially entered Bangladesh. We currently have around 3 lac registered users in the Mi Community Bangladesh. We are extremely proud of the community of Mi Fans that we have built and nurtured over years.
To engage our Mi fans in Bangladesh, we arrange various contests online as well as provide platforms for sharing experiences through posts, etc. In the offline forum, we organize Fan meets to enable the users to share their thoughts and experiences with Xiaomi. We have an official Mi Fan Club in Dhaka and Chattogram.
In January 2020, we organized the country's first-ever Mi POP, where 300+ Mi fans joined from different parts of the country. It was the biggest ever celebration with the fans.
In addition to this, we also recruit Mi fans for Beta testing the new features of our latest smartphones, thereby allowing us to interact with them and additionally get valuable feedback straight from them.
Future Startup: Over the past several years, we have seen tremendous growth in mobile phone penetration in the country. However, smartphone penetration has slowed over the last few years despite the fact that smartphone prices continue to fall. How do you see these developments?
Ziauddin Chowdhury: There is a huge potential in the smartphone market in Bangladesh, but the business volume is not growing as expected. Till now, Bangladesh's smartphone penetration is only one-third of the total sales of handsets. According to Bangladesh Mobile Phone Importers Association (BMPI), smartphones currently account for around 30 percent of the handsets sold, while feature phones have a market share of more than 70 percent. According to media reports, due to an increase of duty rate, the gray market business of smartphones in Bangladesh has seen a sudden spike in recent years, which is alarming.
However, the initiative to activate the National Equipment Identification Registrar (NEIR) by BTRC (Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission) from 1st July will be a welcome change to the telecom industry as it will deter customers from buying illegally shipped smartphones. Hence, it is my humble request to everyone that they buy our smartphones from our officially authorized stores.
We are focusing on making smartphones accessible for everyone as it is now becoming a necessity in our everyday lives. With that in mind, we have opened our shop in Tier-2 city areas such as - Char Fasson Upazila in Bhola, Chakaria Upazila in Cox's Bazar, Birampur Upazila in Dinajpur, Muktagacha Upazila in Mymensingh. Moreover, we have also invested in sales representatives who help people to clearly understand new technologies and the new features of smart devices, so that they can reap the most benefits from their devices.
Future Startup: What were some major challenges you faced in the early days of Xiaomi Bangladesh and how did you deal with them?
Ziauddin Chowdhury: Every business faces its unique set of challenges. However, we believe that our Mi fans help us to overcome any challenges that we come across. Being a fan-centric brand allows us to overcome any challenges together, as our loyal fans go the extra mile with us in our quests.
Future Startup: What were some of the things that worked for Xiaomi Bangladesh strategically in the early days?
Ziauddin Chowdhury: Being a global company that focuses on the satisfaction of its customers and with the Mi fans being at the core of our business, Xiaomi Bangladesh has worked towards catering to its Mi fans with the best possible services since day one. We have been providing the best user experience to our fans since entering the market and we will continue to do everything we can to make sure that they enjoy a truly remarkable experience.
Our excellent after-sales services have been at the center of our promise to deliver a great user experience and we have been recognized by Red Quanta as it announced that Xiaomi is the ‘best smartphone brand’ in terms of after-sales services in Bangladesh for 2 consecutive quarters.
Having a fan-centric approach allows Xiaomi to stand out. Our Mi Fans ensure the word-of-mouth promotion of our products as they have used them and can vouch for the quality as well as the user experience. This organic reach enables us to reduce marketing costs and subsequently helps us to provide the fans with our latest products at reasonable prices with the best possible specifications.
Future Startup: Your take on the mobile phone industry in Bangladesh. How do you see the competition in the market?
Ziauddin Chowdhury: Every business has its fair share of competition. Xiaomi welcomes competition as it ultimately benefits the customers with more choices in innovative technology and the opportunity to avail the latest products.
Nowadays, smartphones are being used for various purposes. The pandemic has increased the importance of digital technologies. The digital transformation that is taking place across the world indicates this trend will continue even after this pandemic is over.
Education, commerce, government services, healthcare, financial services all have gone online and smartphones are working as an easy and affordable gateway to access these services.
The COVID-19 pandemic is hampering the growth of 5G devices, which began to gain traction in the global market. In Bangladesh, the situation is no different. Many markets and shopping malls are remaining closed due to the Government imposing a strict shut down due to the sudden rise in the COVID affected cases.
Future Startup: What are the challenges for Xiaomi Bangladesh now as we endure a global pandemic?
Ziauddin Chowdhury: The unprecedented pandemic situation is seen as a global challenge. There are commercial implications with regards to multiple aspects of carrying out the business in these challenging times.
The maintenance of the logistics has become difficult during this pandemic situation as the transportation costs have already increased due to the uncertainty surrounding these unpredictable times. As a result, the global supply chain is also being affected, leading to overall challenges for different companies worldwide.
We expect everyone to stay positive and consider these tough times the best time to learn and proceed in life. We welcome everyone to come forward to help and express their gratitude to the superheroes who are staying outdoors to keep us safe.
Everyone needs to be united for the sake of everyone's safety. Our combined effort and hospitality are crucial to stop this global crisis.
Future Startup: What are the plans for Xiaomi Bangladesh?
Ziauddin Chowdhury: Being a fan-centric brand, we are always on the lookout for insights that define changing trends, behavior, and requirements of the consumers. Our main goal is to become the most loved brand in the hearts of the Bangladeshi people. We, at Xiaomi Bangladesh, believe that our Mi fans are at the heart of our business. And that’s why we need to keep them engaged with the best possible services.
Xiaomi is an internet company with smartphones and smart hardware that are connected by an Internet of Things (IoT) platform at its core. Therefore, we want to build a smart eco-system with the help of our IoT devices.
We believe that increasing our investments in the new retail strategy. In addition, we will ensure that our after-sales services keep ensuring that issues are resolved as soon as they arise. Ensuring customer satisfaction is vital for any business and we at Xiaomi believe that the love of our dedicated Mi fans is what keeps us going in the competitive smartphone market.
We are also working to bring more 5G enabled devices at an equal pace with the world. Earlier, the spread of 3G and 4G across the country gave us hope to increase the use of technology in epidemics. We, who work in the mobile industry, are also trying to work shoulder to shoulder with everyone to fight the pandemic.
Apart from that, we are constantly evaluating more possibilities and we will keep growing as and how we see the demand and the market needs.
Future Startup: Biggest lessons from your journey so far.
Ziauddin Chowdhury: There will always be a set of challenges as you move along in life. Life will throw you a bunch of curveballs. However, if you stay focused and consistently pursue your dream, then I am sure that you will win in the end.
Future Startup: How do you stay productive and deal with challenges and stress that come with your job?
Ziauddin Chowdhury: These are unprecedented times. We need to find a way to stay competitive in this extremely challenging situation. Stress is something that you cannot avoid, but what’s important is how you deal with it.
For me, I want to be as transparent as possible and share the challenges that we have with the team, and take collaborative decision-making approaches that help to share the stress and stay productive as a team.