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Tag Archives: asia

India’s BookMyShow pulls in $100M to grow its online ticketing business

BookMyShow , an online ticketing service for cinemas, theatres and sports in India, has pulled in $100 million in new capital for growth. The Series D round was led by private investment firm TPG Growth and it included participation from undisclosed existing investors. BookMyShow, which is headquartered in Mumbai, has now raised a total of $225 million from a range of backers that include Accel, SAIF and New York’s Stripes Group. When reached by TechCrunch via investors, the company declined to discuss details of the funding or the plans to utilize it. “TPG Growth brings with them extensive wealth of experience across the global media and entertainment sector which would be instrumental as we look to accelerate our growth plans in this space. The strategic value that all our investors continue to provide us will also be of immense importance as we begin a new chapter of our standout story,” said BookMyShow CEO and founder Ashish Hemrajani in a prepared statement. On that experience, TPG’s investments in the entertainment industry include  Cirque du Soleil, Spotify, STX Entertainment, Vice Media and MoreTickets so you can imagine that the startup will find value from both that network and the experience that the firm has accrued working with its portfolio. BookMyShow was in expansion mode in 2017 when it made four acquisitions, which included rival ticketing startups Townscript and MastiTickets . The case of Townscript, which is a self-serve platform, post-acquisition the business is said to have tripled the number of events on its platform and doubled revenue, too. The firm has already ventured overseas with operations launched in Indonesia and Sri Lanka, so the capital may go towards more verticals expansions and other international market launches.

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Alibaba boosts its offline reach with $2B+ investment in outdoor digital marketing firm

Alibaba is investing big bucks into offline distribution. The Chinese e-commerce giant has forked out $2.23 billion in exchange for a sizeable piece of Focus Media, a Shanghai-based company that operates outdoor digital advertising screens across China, Singapore and Hong Kong, according to a U.S. filing . The deal itself is broken up into a few pieces. Alibaba itself is paying $1.43 billion for a 6.62 percent share of Focus Media, which is listed in Shanghai, It is also spending $504.7 million to buy 10 percent of an entity (managed by Focus Media founder and chairman Jason Nanchun Jiang) which controls 23.34 percent of Focus Media. In addition, an Alibaba-aligned fund called ‘New Retail Strategic Opportunities’ is buying 1.37 percent of Focus Media, while Alibaba itself is planning to exercise an option to buy five percent more of the business over the next twelve months. That additional transaction will add another $1 billion or so to the total investment, dependent, of course, on Focus Media’s stock price. That’s quite a mouthful but the objective of the deal is simpler to grok: Alibaba already has a formidable online channel to interact with consumers and now it is expanding what it can do offline. Focus Media currently claims to reach 200 million middle-class consumers across 300 Chinese cities via its outdoor advertising platform, which includes digital screens in streets, in subways and in elevators. The company plans to  grow that to 500 million people across 500 cities , and that ties into Alibaba’s online-to-offline strategy, which it also calls ‘New Retail.’ That has seen the company buy up expensive stakes in offline retail businesses with the goal of marrying the benefits of online shopping — such as quick delivery, easy to find products and easy payment — with the customer experience of brick and mortar stores, like in-person customer service and try-before-you-buy. It isn’t hard to imagine a scenario in which a consumer sees a product advertised via Focus Media with the option to buy it, or arrange to see it in a store, simply by scanning a QR code. (Lest you forgot, QR codes are huge in China and a very key component in online/offline shopping.) Beyond the New Retail push, the distribution provided by Focus Media offers sellers on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform an alternative avenue through which to reach potential customers, particularly within China’s growing middle class. Will people reject being bombarded with ads on their commute or downtime, especially when they could just open an app on their phone? Alibaba likely isn’t keen to take the risk, and given the vast amount of cash it is sitting on this deal isn’t going to be a huge risk.

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Apple’s iCloud user data in China is now handled by a state-owned mobile operator

If you’re an Apple customer living in China who didn’t already opt out of having your iCloud data stored locally, here’s a good reason to do so now. That information, the data belonging to China-based iCloud users which includes emails and text messages, is now being stored by a division of China Telecom, the state-owned telco. The operator’s Tianyi cloud storage business unit has taken the reins for iCloud China, according to a WeChat post from China Telecom . Apple separately confirmed the change to TechCrunch. Apple’s transition of the data from its own U.S.-based servers to local servers on Chinese soil has raised significant concern among observers who worry that the change will grant the Chinese government easier access to sensitive information. Before a switch announced earlier this year , all encryption keys for Chinese users were stored in the U.S. which meant authorities needed to go through the U.S. legal system to request access to information. Now the situation is based on Chinese courts and a gatekeeper that’s owned by the government. Apple itself has said  it was compelled to make the move in order to comply with Chinese authorities, and that hardly eases the mind. It’s ironic that the U.S. government has pursued Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE on account of national security and suspected links to Chinese authorities, and yet one of America’s largest corporates is entrusting user data to a state-owned company in China.

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Google launches its first WeChat mini program as its China experiments continue

Google is continuing to test new strategies in China after the U.S. search giant released its first mini program for WeChat, the country’s hugely popular messaging app. WeChat is used by hundreds of millions of Chinese people daily for services that stretch beyond chat to include mobile payments, bill paying, food delivery and more. Tencent, the company that operates WeChat, added mini programs last year and they effectively operate like apps that are attached to the service. That means that users bypass Google Play or Apple’s App Store and install them from WeChat. Earlier this year, Tencent added support for games — “mini games” — and the Chinese firm recently said that over one million mini programs have been created to date. Engagement is high, with some 500 million WeChat users interacting with at least one each month. WeChat has become the key distribution channel in China and that’s why Google is embracing it with its first mini program — 猜画小歌, a game that roughly translates to ‘Guess My Sketch.’ There’s no English announcement but the details can be found in this post on Google’s Chinese blog , which includes the QR code to scan to get the game. The app is a take on games like Zynga’s Draw Something, which puts players into teams to guess what the other is drawing. Google, however, is adding a twist. Each player teams up with an AI and then battles against their friends and their AIs. You can find an English version of the game online here . Google’s first WeChat mini program is a sketching game that uses AI The main news here isn’t the game, of course, but that Google is embracing mini programs, which have been christened as a threat to the Google Play Store itself.

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Restaurant booking startup Eatigo chows down ~$10M more from TripAdvisor

Eatigo, a Southeast Asia-based dining service that describes itself as an ‘anti-Groupon’ for restaurants, had a busy 2017 that saw it expand into a number of markets including India. Now it is primed to continue that growth further still after it gobbled down a fresh serving of capital from TripAdvisor, the travel giant that it already counts as an investor. Ok, no more food jokes, I promise… The funding is undisclosed but Eatigo CEO and co-founder Michael Cluzel told TechCrunch it is ‘eight-digits.’ We do know that it takes Eatigo to over $25 million raised to date which, given that the startup had raised more than $15 million following the completion of its previous round , suggests that the amount is around the $10 million mark. Eatigo was founded in Bangkok in 2013 and it is designed to help restaurants fill unused inventory by offering deals to customers at certain times of the day. The appeal to eaters is deals, but unlike group buying services such as Groupon, Eatigo encourages restaurants to manage their inventory and time so that they are filling their quiet hours for additional revenue not ramming people into restaurants for the sake of it. The latter scenario, of course, puts pressure on staff, reduces service quality and is generally not conducive to a good dining experience. It is also questionable whether discounts drive long-time loyalty, a cornerstone the Groupon of old was built on, but I digress. The Eatigo service is present in six countries where it claims four million registered users and over 4,000 restaurants. That latter number ranges from high-end affairs, such as upscale hotel restaurants, to chain outlets and — my own personal favorite — street food outlets. The important part here, besides the money, is that this new deal appears to signal a closer relationship between Eatigo and TripAdvisor, and particularly TripAdvisor’s The Fork subsidiary and its TripAdvisor Restaurants service. The Fork, which the company got via a 2014 acquisition , is TripAdvisor’s expansion into food, allowing users to find information on availability and bookings on restaurants and in cities. Like Eatigo, it allows for advanced bookings at a discount but the service is squarely focused on Europe, having initially been founded in France. In that respect, it makes sense for the duo to collaborate. “As we look to further our presence in the Asia Pacific region, we believe our latest strategic investment in Eatigo will continue to support a great business and strong management team

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Golden Equator Capital and Korea Investment Partners announce $88M Southeast Asia fund

There’s more money flowing into Southeast Asia’s tech startup scene after Singapore’s  Golden Equator Capital and Seoul-based Korea Investment Partners announced plans for a collaborative $88 million (SG$120 million) fund for the region. The two investment firms will act as joint partners for the vehicle, which is expected to hit a first close before September and a final close by the end of 2018. Already, they claim to have 65 percent of the target capital committed by LPs. The firms are aiming for the Series A and B spaces with a typical check size of between $1.5 million and $3.7 million for what will be known as the GEC-KIP Fund. It isn’t exactly clear what focus the fund will adopt for investments. Southeast Asia often falls off the radar for investment in Asia, with the far larger countries of China and India typically getting the attention, but rising internet access among the region’s cumulative population of over 600 million signals growth potential. A recent report co-authored by Google forecasts Southeast Asia’s ‘internet economy’ reaching more than $200 billion by 2025, up from just $30 billion in 2015. A few unicorns, including ride-sharing companies Grab and Go-Jek, have also helped put it on the map for investors. Speaking of investors, Golden Equator Capital is part of Golden Equator , a Singapore-based group of businesses that includes financial services, consulting, an incubator and, of course, investment funds. The firm has existing ties with Korea — via a Korea-focused health tech incubator launched last year — and its advisory team includes Taizo Son , founder of Japanese VC firm Mistletoe and brother of SoftBank chairman Masayoshi Son.

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Xiaomi’s former head of international Hugo Barra lands IPO windfall

Xiaomi’s IPO in Hong Kong may not have been the smash hit that the company was hoping for , but the listing is a major financial windfall for one former employee: Xiaomi’s ex-head of international Hugo Barra. Barra joined Xiaomi in 2013 from Google, where he had been a senior executive in charge of Android, but  he departed the Chinese company last year to join Facebook , where he leads the social network’s VR push . It’s conventional for staff to lose stock options when they depart a business ahead of schedule — and before their vesting period — but that didn’t apply in the case of Barra, who was allocated 86 million shares, according to details buried in Xiaomi’s prospectus that were spotted by Bloomberg’s Tim Culpan. Barra’s shares are due to vest on October 1 2018 and at the current HK$19 price  they are worth around $209 million. That’s thanks to a rush in trading that pushed the stock up by over 10 percent  today. Barra flew into Hong Kong to attend the company’s IPO ceremony on Monday, according to photos shared by Xiaomi staff. Spotted in @xiaomi 's prospectus. Any thoughts on whom it may be? pic.twitter.com/9yGv8BoEYz — Tim Culpan (@tculpan) July 10, 2018 The filing doesn’t mention Barra by name, but the job title — vice president (global business) — makes it easy to identify him since that role was created for him, he was never replaced directly and the start date is in line with his employment period. Neither Barra nor Xiaomi responded to requests for comment from TechCrunch. Barra isn’t the only former employee to retain stock options, the Chinese firm also gave an allocation to its former chief scientist and ex-director of hardware. Other non-Chinese executives who netted major financial gains from the listing include Manu Jain, who heads up Xiaomi India and is estimated to hold around $55 million  in stock. The listing may have been lackluster — Xiaomi had to settle for a valuation of around $57 billion despite aiming for as high as $100 billion — but it still created vast wealth for core company personnel. CEO Lei Jun’s stock, around 29 percent of the company, was worth $14 billion at the end of trading on day one

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Aspire Capital offers fast finance for SMEs in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia’s digital economy is tipped to grow more than six-fold to reach more than $200 billion per year, according to a report co-authored by Google , with e-commerce accounting for the dominant share. The emergence of e-commerce platforms like Alibaba’s Lazada and U.S.-listed Shopee have enabled online entrepreneurship across the region, but still financial support for online sellers, who are basically SMEs, is lagging. That’s where Singapore-based Aspire Capital , a six-month-old organization focused on speedy SME lending, is hoping to make a difference. The company certainly has opportunity. With a cumulative population of over 600 million consumers and a rising middle class, Southeast Asia is increasingly an attractive market for businesses of all kind, and online companies in particular. Chinese giants Alibaba and Tencent have long devoted significant resources to the region where, like India, they see significant growth potential. E-commerce is the clear winner, in terms of size, with the e-Conomy SEA report — a joint research project between Google and Singapore sovereign fund Temasek — forecasting e-commerce revenue will hit $88 billion by 2025 from $10.9 billion in 2017. Data from the e-Conomy SEA report The crux of its problem is that online sellers who use Lazada, Shopee or other platforms that are forgoing profit in order to grow, are ironically less able to scale their business since there are few ‘e-commerce friendly’ financing options. That problem became apparent to Aspire founder and CEO Andrea Baronchelli during a four-year stint with Lazada Singapore where, as CMO, he identified a financing disconnect for Lazada merchants. “I saw the problem while trying to rally small businesses trying to grow in the digital economy,” Baronchelli told TechCrunch in an interview. “The problem is really about providing working capital to small business owners. We started with online sellers, but we have expanded a bit as we see demand. There are 65 million small businesses in Southeast Asia, that’s ten times more than the U.S. so we see so much potential,” he added. Aspire founder and CEO Andrea Baronchelli pictured while at Lazada Today, Aspire Capital covers Singapore where it has expanded beyond e-commerce merchants to cover other things of SMEs who seek loans, primarily for working capital as Baronchelli explains.

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Tesla reaches deal to build electric vehicle factory in China

Tesla has reached a deal with the Shanghai government to build a factory capable of producing 500,000 electric vehicles a year. The factory would be the automaker’s second assembly plant and aimed at serving the alluring Chinese market. Tesla and the Shanghai Municipal People’s Government announced Tuesday they had signed the cooperative agreement. Tesla announced last year it was working with the Shanghai municipal government to explore the possibility of establishing a factory in the region. Construction on the factory, which the company has dubbed Gigafactory 3, is expected to begin “in the future after we get all the necessary approvals and permits,” a Tesla spokesman told TechCrunch in an emailed statement. “From there, it will take roughly two years until we start producing vehicles and then another two to three years before the factory is fully ramped up to produce around 500,000 vehicles per year for Chinese customers,” the spokesman said. Tesla hasn’t provided an estimate of what the factory might cost to build. That’s a critical data point for Tesla, which has been burning through cash as it tries to ramp up production of its Model 3 vehicle . Still, the deal is a milestone for Tesla and Musk, who has long viewed China as a crucial market. It’s also notable because this will be a wholly owned Tesla factory, not a traditional joint venture with the Chinese government. Foreign companies have historically had to form a 50-50 joint venture with a local partner to build a factory in China. Chines President Xi Jinping has pushed forward plans to phase out joint-venture rules for foreign automakers by 2022. Tesla is one of the first beneficiaries of this rule change. Tesla is particularly exposed to escalating trade tensions between China and the U.S.

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Facebook buys ads in Indian newspapers to warn about WhatsApp fakes

As Twitter finally gets serious about purging fake accounts , and YouTube says it will try to firefight conspiracy theories and fake news flaming across its platform with $25M to fund bona fide journalism , Facebook-owned WhatsApp is grappling with its own fake demons in India, where social media platforms have been used to seed and spread false rumors — fueling mob violence and leading to number of deaths in recent years. This week Facebook has taken out full page WhatsApp -branded adverts in Indian newspapers to try to stem the tide of life-threatening digital fakes  spreading across social media platforms in the region with such tragic results. It’s not the first time the company has run newspaper ads warning about fake news in India , though it does appear to be first time it’s responded to the violence being sparked by fakes spreading on WhatsApp specifically. The full page WhatsApp anti-fakes advert also informs users that “starting this week” the platform is rolling out a new feature that will allow users to determine whether a message has been forwarded. “Double check the facts when you’re not sure who wrote the original message,” it warns. "Question information that upsets you", says WhatsApp's full-page advertisements. Clearly the solution to declining newspaper ad revenues in India will come from how we tackle our digital fake news crisis. pic.twitter.com/3h5XyJeMIr — Anuj Srivas (@AnujSrivas) July 10, 2018 This follows tests WhatsApp was running back in January  when the platform trialed displaying notifications for when a message had been forwarded many times. Evidently WhatsApp has decided to take that feature forward, at least in India, although how effective a check it will be on technology-accelerated fakes that are likely also fueled by local prejudices remains to be seen. Trying to teach nuanced critical thinking when there may be a more basic lack of education that’s contributing to fomenting mistrust and driving credulity, as well as causing the spread of malicious fakes and rumors targeting certain people or segments of the population in the first place, risks both being ineffectual and coming across as merely irresponsible fiddling around the edges of a grave problem that’s claimed multiple lives already. Facebook also stands accused of failing to respond quickly enough to similar risks in Myanmar — where the UN recently warned that its platform was being weaponized to spread hate speech and used as a tool to fuel ethnic violence . Reuters reports that the first batch of WhatsApp fake ads are running in “key Indian newspapers”, and images posted to Twitter show an English-language full-page advert — so you do have to question who these first ads are really intended to influence. But the news agency reports that Facebook also intends to publish similar ads in regional dailies across India over the course of this week.

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Grab co-founder says Southeast Asia still has plenty of competition despite Uber’s exit

Grab may have bought itself a dominant position in Southeast Asia through its acquisition of Uber’s regional business , but the company still believes there’s competition in the ride-hailing space despite what consumers may feel. But Grab customers aren’t alone in feeling that the Grab-Uber deal is detrimental, the Competition and Consumer Commission Singapore (CCCS) last week expressed concern that the tie-up is hurting consumers and that a lack of competition will reduce innovation. The watchdog is in the process of an investigation into the deal which could see it dish out fines for Uber and Grab, or potentially unwind the deal in Singapore altogether. Despite that threat looming, Grab co-founder Hooi Ling Tan told an audience at the Rise conference in Hong Kong that the market, and ride-hailing more generally, remains competitive in Southeast Asia despite Uber’s exit. “There’s still a lot of existing competition, we don’t foresee it ending ever.. and to be honest we don’t want it to because we continue to learn from them,” Tan said. “We continue to learn from alternative players who take alternative strategies and operational tactics.” Go-Jek, the billion-dollar firm that dominates Indonesia and is plotting a regional expansion to fill Uber’s void, may be the most obvious rival, but Tan said that Grab is competing with more basic forces. “From day one, our primary competitor has never been other ride-hailing apps, it’s actually been what Grab CEO Anthony Tan calls the hand — the hand that waves down a taxi on the side of the road,” Tan, who is not related to the Grab CEO, said. “That market is huge, and it is something we’re trying to provide an alternative service to because it isn’t exactly efficient as is.” 10 July 2018; Tan Hooi Ling, left, Co-Founder, Grab, and Kara Swisher, Executive Editor, Recode, on Centre Stage during day one of RISE 2018 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in Hong Kong. Photo by Stephen McCarthy / RISE via Sportsfile CCCS, the Singaporean watchdog, doesn’t agree, however. Last week it expressed concern that no other taxi apps rival Grab and that a prohibitive barrier of cost and network effects prevents new entrants from competing squarely. A lack of competition has already led to Grab raising prices, it argued, although Grab has denied doing so. Tan didn’t comment directly on the regulator’s comments, but she did say at a subsequent press briefing that regulating ride-hailing is a tricky process. “We’re all trying to figure out what’s the right way to balance the needs of the consumer and need to create an environment that’s supportive of innovation,” she said

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After Uber buyout, Grab aims to go beyond rides to become Southeast Asia’s one-stop app

Grab is shrugging off the threat that Singapore might undo its acquisition of Uber’s Southeast Asia business after the ride-hailing firm announced a new strategy to become Southeast Asia’s one-stop “super app.” The Competition and Consumer Commission Singapore (CCCS) last week said it may levy a fine or unwind the Uber-Grab deal but today Singapore-based Grab announced a push to beyond merely offering rides in Southeast Asia, a region of more than 600 million consumers. Grab will now allow third parties to become a part of its service, which claims over 100 million downloads to date. ‘Grab Platform’ — as the initiative is called — allows partner companies to tap Grab’s scale to reach new customers and utilize other services. The first to sign up is grocery delivery company HappyFresh, which has developed a version of its service that’s integrated into the Grab app. HappyFresh, which has struggled to build a business in Southeast Asia , will enjoy Grab’s distribution and the opportunity to tap into Grab’s fleet and its GrabPay payment service. Grab declined to provide financial details of the partnership. Grab co-founder Hooi Ling Tan said that Grab has plans to introduce APIs and, in time, make partner sign-up “significantly more self-serving so that even SMEs can leverage so the same assets that some of our larger partners have.” Aside from related partner services, Grab is also bringing news, games and other content to its app, which is getting a design facelift to reflect the change. In the past, Grab’s app had opened to a ride-booking screen, but now it will load a list of services and content to reflect a more diverse set of options. There’s actually nothing new there. That approach is very much similar to Go-Jek, Grab’s rival which dominates Indonesia and is expanding across Southeast Asia  and first pioneered the concept of on-demand services in Southeast Asia. The Grab refresh also takes cues from China’s Meituan, a super app company that invested in Go-Jek and is going public in Hong Kong , and blockbuster Chinese apps WeChat from Tencent and Alipay. Grab’s new app design — “we are not longer just transport” — looks an awful lot like Go-Jek’s with many more services than rides pic.twitter.com/0i4exjrum5 — Jon Russell (@jonrussell) July 10, 2018 “All of this is aimed to help our consumer experience become Southeast Asia’s everyday super app,” Tan said at a press event at the Rise conference in Hong Kong . Grab recently raised $1 billion from Toyota — a deal that represents the largest ride-sharing investment from an automaker — and Tan hinted that the company could be profitable. “We are already profitable in some of our markets and especially the more mature ones and we are in a position to continue investing into growth,” Tan explained. There’s a “strong path to profitability but we’ve made an active decision to continue growing because we know that there’s so much potential there.” Grab said last month that it is on course to reach $1 billion in revenue for 2018, and Tan added that GMV has jumped by nine-fold over the past 12 months

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China’s Xiaomi makes underwhelming public debut in Hong Kong IPO

China’s Xiaomi, the world’s fifth biggest seller of smartphones, made an underwhelming public debut after it hit the Hong Kong Stock Exchange amid concerns around an ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China. Media reports in the lead up to today’s bell ringing suggested that eight-year-old Xiaomi was shooting for a valuation of as much as $100 billion . In the end, it had to settle for a more modest $54 billion valuation as it raised $4.7 billion from the IPO. CEO Lei Jun acknowledged that “global capital markets are in constant flux” thanks to tensions between Beijing and the White House, which has seen trade tariffs levied on each side. However, Lei — one of China’s most successful technology entrepreneurs — said that the situation doesn’t diminish his belief in his business. “Although the macroeconomic conditions are far from ideal, we believe a great company can still rise to the challenge and distinguish itself,” he said in a speech at the listing ceremony. Xiaomi enjoyed an understated debut. The stock opened at HK$16.60, below the list price of HK$17, and it quickly fell to HK$16 before later recovering. Its closing share price for the first day of trading was HK$16.78. Data via Hong Kong Stock Exchange Aside from global market concerns, investors are said to have been unsure of Xiaomi’s ecosystem story. The company pitches itself as going beyond devices to offer internet services, such as video streaming, although it has yet to see significant revenue in the services category. Prior to listing, Xiaomi pledged to keep its gross margin to just five percent to ensure that its products are well priced for consumers, but that requires the company to find other ways to monetize and that’s where the services play is aimed. Xiaomi also offers a long-tail of products developed by third parties, such as tech like smart speakers and non-tech items that include bags and pens, which it sells directly to its consumer base using its e-commerce sites and ‘Mi’ brand

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