Slave Labor, Xiaomi’s Competitive Edge? Working 9-9-6

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August 15, 2014 by ...

Xiaomi’s 9-9-6 advantage

People working for charismatic startups can usually be found to be driven by two motives: dollars or devotion. For many, they are betting on the cum. People willing to substitute months and years of leisure. The other group other group does the same, but for love of the company. Based on Chinese blogs, Xiaomi is no exception. Why else would its employees pepper cyberspace with near militant Xiaomi rants and subject themselves to the brutal 9-9-6 work regimen. Yeah, for as little as $300 Xiaomi workers commit or are mandated to working from 9am until 9 pm six days a week; 9-9-6, at a minimum.

The silicon valley is rife with those who pledge fidelity for the future and hitch their wagons to Red Bull induced work frenzies waiting for the golden days to come. The devotees, on the other hand, take to inking their bodies with corporate screed and devote more clock cycles to their adopted family than their own. Both apple and Harley Davidson are prime examples of the latter.

A recent post in a Chinese tech blog broadly claimed the same cohort inhabits the Xiaomi clan. According to the news, the company is divided. Many believe in the vision of Lei Jun and that their golden sloop is on the horizon. To these, the corporate driven manic work days are merely a means to a fruitful end.

At the other end of the spectrum are those Mi-fens, or hardcore Xiaomi zealots. To hear Xiaomi tell it, they are converts who so love the company that they work for next to nothing, just to help the cause. This makes sense based on the nationalist bent of both the post 80s generation and Xiaomi itself.

Some question the veracity of the number and scope of the famed ‘Mi-fens, alleging they are nothing more than bloggers paid by Lei Jun to maintain the buzz. The truth is probably some where in between. Chinese press is vilified for having exploitative journalists and bloggers who for a price will drum up business for you and yours or bury your competition with negative news, leaving you to clean up. Based on what my research shows, there is no lack of true Mi-fens. It would also make sense, however, that they are helped out with a crew paid by Lei Jun et al.

In any event the facts show that Xiaomi and hype are synonymous across China, Asia and increasingly the US as well. After all, how many companies sell out tens of thousands of cell phones in less than a minute?

What one must consider, however, is the ‘restaurant by train station’ analogy. Comets burn brightest the newer they are and then fizzle with age. Based on quality concerns in both China and More recently Taiwan, Xiaomi’s weaknesses may be catching up with it. Sure, Mi-fens tout the wonders of their phones, and a shiny new Redmi for $200 or less will make just about anybody smile. Until, of course, it becomes an over proceed door stop, which is happening with increased frequency in China.

The issue of quality will be discussed in a subsequent post, but from where I am sitting Xiaomi seems on a rock star like path to implosion. It looks like poor quality and a pitiful after sales service will be the heroin of Xiaomi’s Curt Cobain-like career.

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