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Mass line, IT guru's secret to success

Xinhua, March 6, 2014 Adjust font size:

When summing up his business strategy, Lei Jun, founder of China's Xiaomi Technology, used a very political term: "mass line."

"In the age of the Internet, you need to be close to the market and friendly to users. I think (this strategy) is an interpretation of the concept of the mass line," said Lei, also a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), in an interview with Xinhua Thursday on the sidelines of the ongoing annual parliamentary session.

"Mass line" has been a buzzword in China's political circles in the past year as a term for a campaign promoted by the new leadership to make the Party and government more accessible to the general public and clean up undesirable work styles such as formalism and bureaucracy.

This political campaign seems a bit distant from the edgy IT industry.

"The Internet is amazing because it can easily approach and engage a mass of people," Lei said. "Nothing can be more 'mass line' than a right attitude about the Internet."

Lei's company, a fast-rising smartphone maker, is making every effort to embrace user interaction and engagement.

One Xiaomi phone model is designed based on ideas contributed by millions of users through its online forum, Lei said, adding that some Xiaomi fans have even helped translate the interface into foreign languages.

A product based on the ideas of so many people will certainly be popular, he said.

The strategy was rewarded in Xiaomi's sales, which soared from 10,000 phones in the first month about three years ago to 4 million monthly now.

In the future, most industries will have to operate in the same way as today's IT firms, which are flexible, accessible, friendly and customized, Lei said.

The IT industry is no longer just creating new businesses. Lately it has seriously shaken some powerful traditional industries in China, such as banks and retailers.

Financial products like Yu'E Bao, created by e-commerce giant Alibaba's online payment arm Alipay, have become a heated topic at this year's parliamentary session.

Chinese people have pulled money from traditional banks, which offer a maximum 3.3 percent interest rate for one-year deposits, and moved it to web-based money market funds like Yu'E Bao, which offers a seven-day annualized yield of nearly 6 percent.

The better interest rate enabled Yu'E Bao to attract 81 million users with aggregate deposits estimated at around 500 billion yuan (81 billion U.S. dollars) in just eight months.

"I am sure the Internet will transform even more industries," Lei said. "Traditional industries need to adjust their mindsets."

Li Yanhong (Robin Li), chairman and chief executive officer of Baidu, shared a similar view.

"Business people from traditional industries, once they have the mindset, will use the Internet to upgrade themselves," said Li, a national political advisor, at a press conference in Beijing.

Businesses as small as a canteen or as big as a bank can benefit from the Internet, he said.

In this year's government work report, the Internet appears quite a few times. Premier Li Keqiang listed information services as one of the factors needed to boost domestic demand.

The report said China will speed up 4G mobile network programs, build 100M fiber optic networks in cities and extend broadband connectivity to villages.

It also promised to promote the healthy development of Internet finance as well as online retailing.

In January, when Premier Li hosted a meeting with experts and business people to hear their opinions about the draft government work report, Lei and Tencent CEO Ma Huateng were present.

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