Over the next few months we will be interviewing CEO’s bosses and company executives from Chinese smartphone makers. To kick things off we speak to UMi CEO Heaven.
We managed to catch up with UMi CEO Heaven during our last trip to Shenzhen. We managed to sit him down for a few moments out of his busy schedule to speak to him about UMi, how he got in to the smartphone industry and more.
GizChina: Tell us what your name is and your position.
Heaven: My name is Heaven, I am the CEO of UMI Technology Limited. I mostly in charge of the whole product line planning, product designing and manufacturing.
GizChina: Interesting name choice. How did you come by it?
Heaven: Well, it was my first day at English class and I was running late. When I arrived in class the English teacher caught me and asked my my name. I answered “I haven’t”, but the teacher miss heard as “Heaven”, and so it stuck.
GizChina: How did you get in to the smartphone industry?
Heaven: I’m a lover of digital products. Ever since smartphones came out I’ve been crazy about them, buying the latest models as soon as they came out. After I graduated from University I decided to move to Shenzhen after hearing about the huge Electronics industry here. Obviously I was lucky get into a cellphone company and start my smartphone journey.
GizChina: You created UMi, what can you tell us about your company?
Heaven: The name UMi reminds a lot of people of Xiaomi, I do not deny it, but the meaning of UMi is unique to us and how we feel about our products and customers. As the name sounds, UMi represents ‘you’ and ‘I’. The fans and UMi as a company. I wanted to create a company that cares about it’s fans and customers, with a product and design mindful of what our fans want. We try to create a beautiful experience of a product that belongs to you.
I used to spend a lot of time on forums, sharing ideas about gadgets and reviewing technology. I found that most companies weren’t so interested in the experience between themselves and their fans, so I decided to start my own called UMi.
GizChina: Recently UMi launched the Zero. Is there anything significant behind the name choice?
Heaven: This goes back to 2 years ago when I started UMI. At that time we were mainly focused on the Chinese Mainland market. We launched the UMi X1, X1 Pro, X2, Cross and even worked created a software to help root your phone and install alternative UI to the phones. It was a huge learning process and in that time we faced large problems.
The X1 was a huge success and took us all by surprise we struggled with our supply chain with the X1 in terms of lead time of material supply but somehow we survived. When the X2 launched the demand was even bigger and we had a huge delay with shipping and that caused a lot of canceled orders. Besides not being able to control the supply chain and production lead time, we were working with different solution company who could offer only very limited software upgrades on our phones which is why all the devices including C1 cannot upgrade to lollipop 5.0.
While we strived to keep ahead in China, which was our main market at the time, we left our overseas markets to the hands of our resellers. We trusted our resellers and did not have a direct contact with our oversea fans. Obviously the resellers did not care about our brand and our fans but only making money. Which caused further issues for us.
With the UMi Zero we decide to take our oversea market back and run it by ourselves in order to take care more about our fans and offer better service. We also have better control of our supply chains now and are working on new UI’s for the Zero.
It was a huge challenge for us and it felt like we were starting from Zero again, and that’s where the name came from. The UMi Zero represents a fresh start for UMi, a chance for us to do better.
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GizChina: Some have asked why you choose to launch the UMi Zero without LTE. Can you tell us why?
Heaven: There are a few reason for this. We believe that in its current form LTE is sill in its infancy. We didn’t want to launch the Zero at a higher price with a feature only a small percentage of customers would actually use. Also, as we are a smaller manufacturer, adding LTE would have delayed release of the Zero and fans would have to wait longer.
GizChina: The UMi Zero costs $200, but so do a lot of other phones. What features make the Zero stand out?
Heaven: There are 3 main features of the UMi Zero which you cannot find on a single other phone for $200. The Samsung Super AMOLED full HD display, 13 mega-pixel Sony Camera and, beautiful alloy chassis.
GizChina: As you have already mentioned, UMi is a smaller phone maker, how do you plan to compete with larger companies?
Heaven: Well our goal is not to compete with any other mobile companies, but bring the best smartphone experience to all our fans who share the same dream as ours.
GizChina: What can we expect from UMi in the future?
Heaven: In the coming months we will open a dedicated UMI forum for all our fans to share their ideas and opinions with us, so that we can grow together.
GizChina: Do you have plans to set up offices outside of China to serve international customers?
Heaven: Yes, we are planning to start from our 3 biggest markets, Spain, Germany and Russia to provide more professional local service.
GizChina: When can we expect the next UMi phone?
Heaven: Let’s look forward to it together by the next summer.
GizChina: Can you give us any information about the next UMi phone?
Heaven: Well the next phone, certainly will improve the lead time issue.
GizChina: Do you have any words of advice for readers who would like to enter the smartphone industry?
Heaven: You need to have faith in yourself. Even if you fail once it doesn’t mean you will keep failing. What matters is you pick up where you left and work with it and to do better.
GizChina: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions.
Heaven: Thank you for interviewing me. I hope this helps to have a whole new understand about us.