Less than three years after its founding, the smartphone maker is valued at $4 billion and evokes Apple-like adoration from its fans, some of whom are desperate enough to skip work for a shot at buying the latest product the day it goes on sale.
Founder Lei Jun dresses like the late Steve Jobs, in jeans and a black top. He has created a fervent fan base for Xiaomi's moderately priced high-end smartphones by mimicking Apple Inc's marketing tactic of attaching an aura of exclusivity around its products.
Before Xiaomi, the 42-year-old Lei was a key investor in China's early Internet scene, co-founding startups including Joyo.cn, which was eventually sold to Amazon.com Inc, and the recently listed YY Inc.
Born in Xiantao, a small city in China's central Hubei province better known for breeding Olympic gymnasts than billionaire technocrats, Lei brushes off comparisons to Jobs but concedes that the Apple visionary was an inspiration.