Blowing off steam

ricecooker w

China’s problems boil down to a single test, says smartphone tycoon Lei Jun. Attending China’s annual parliamentary session, the founder of Xiaomi told media that the country needs to prove it can make better rice cookers than the Japanese. As WiC has reported before, vast numbers of Chinese are visiting Japan to buy its rice cookers, which they believe are superior quality to those made at home. Lei thinks this is part of a broader ‘made in China’ problem, where affluent local consumers prefer to go abroad to buy foreign products. “Everyone has more money and wants to lead a better life,” said Lei. “We need to quickly upgrade the quality of our products so as to meet consumers’ demands.” If Chinese manufacturers fail to do so, they will miss out, he adds, on the opportunities in the country’s fast-growing consumer sector.

“Initially I thought that some Chinese have superstitions about foreign products,” said Lei, a delegate to the National People’s Congress. “Then I studied Japanese rice cookers in detail, and found that they are indeed better made.” According to the Wall Street Journal Lei added: “There’s a phrase that led me to a realisation: let the rice grains dance in the electric rice cookers. In China, we steam the rice until it’s cooked. In Japan, they steam the rice until it’s good.”

So will Xiaomi oblige by adding world-class rice cookers to its product range? Two things that may hold back such ambitions: the firm’s smartphone sales struggled to meet targets last year and Xiaomi faced its own problems with consumers when some of its air purifiers failed a quality control test in Shanghai (see WiC311).

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