Hugo Barra
Xiaomi Inc. VP for International Operations Hugo Barra says India is a crucial market for the Chinese smartphone maker. Reuters

Xiaomi Inc., which on Thursday made a play to capture a larger share of the Indian mobile market, aims to be one of the top smartphone sellers in the country in the next three years, the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday, citing CEO Lei Jun. Xiaomi held its first outside-of-China global product launch in India on Thursday, unveiling the Mi4i smartphone that will go on sale in India on April 30 at just a bit over $200.

Lei, who was present in New Delhi for the launch event, and Hugo Barra, Xiaomi’s VP for international operations, are already attempting small steps to present Xiaomi as an Internet company with software at the heart of its business, even in markets outside China.

Lei, who announced that the company’s fitness band, Mi Band, will soon go on sale in India, expects to accelerate spending on acquiring local startups and other initiatives to develop a larger smartphone ecosystem that will help propel Xiaomi’s position higher in the country, he told the Journal.

Such acquisitions -- Xiaomi has the stated aim of investing in a 100 startups -- could be the key to the China-based company's ability to build a portfolio of mobile games, payments and other cloud services that has until now relied on crowdsourcing to build. Internet services could triple from last year to nearly $1 billion this year, Lei told the paper.

That would still put revenue from software and services at about 6 percent of the $16 billion in revenue Xiaomi has projected for 2015, a year in which the company expects to sell between 80 million and 100 million smartphones. The direction, however, is clearly towards getting a much larger share from such businesses, more akin to how Alibaba Holding Group Ltd., and Tencent Holdings Ltd., make money, Lei told the paper.

Xiaomi has nearly perfected offering feature-rich products at prices very close to cost to capture value-conscious consumers, including thousands of fans in India -- a country where it sold a million phones within the first six months of entering the market. The Mi4i phone will also go on sale in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan in May.

For its price, the Mi4i offers a unibody design incorporating a 5-inch 1080p display, dual 4G SIM support, Snapdragon 615 second-generation octa-core system on chip, 13Mp/5Mp cameras and a 3120mAh battery. There’s ample memory with 2Gb RAM and 16 GB internal memory to handle the MIUI6 interface and Android Lollipop operating system and most popular apps. There is no microSD card slot -- just as in the Mi4, which has inspired the Mi4i and shares many of its features.