Blogs & Comment

Winners & Losers: Xiaomi takes a bite out of Apple, KFC hits the floor

Lei Jun channels Steve Jobs right down to the dad jeans


Might as well have called it the “Mi 2”

Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun as Steve Jobs

Maybe the secret to the business genius of Steve Jobs lay in his wardrobe. Just look at Lei Jun, the CEO of a smartphone company in China called Xiaomi. Lei often appears in public wearing the official Steve Jobs uniform of a black shirt, dad jeans, and white sneakers—showcasing both a lack of fashion sense and a sense of shame. But his approach is working. Xiaomi’s products outsell the iPhone in China, and the company’s newest smartphone, unveiled earlier this week, could put the company even farther ahead of Apple. The new device, called the Mi 4, is similar to the iPhone in just about every way—except that it will sell for a fraction of the price. Even Apple’s cheapest iPhone is pricey for China’s emerging middle class, giving thet Mi 4 a big edge. Lei’s company is sometimes criticized for being a copycat, but Steve Jobs understood better than anyone the need to win at any cost. And if that means a lifetime of wearing poorly fitting jeans, then that’s what Lei is going to do.


“Yuck Brands” just doesn’t have the same ring to it

Colonel Mao holding KFC's famous fried chicken
Nothing hits the spot like a KFC Big Crunch® BBQ Bacon chicken sandwich washed down with a few swigs of the Colonel’s famous gravy, am I right? I’m not? Oh. Well, fast-food fans in China would probably object to that statement too—especially after KFC’s corporate owner, Yum Brands, was forced to apologize amid a food quality scare. A Chinese investigative television program found one of the company’s suppliers had mixed expired meat with fresh chicken and beef, and caught workers picking up meat from the factory floor instead of tossing it away. Yum immediately cut ties with the supplier, which also provided food products to the company’s Pizza Hut chain. China is Yum Brand’s biggest market, and the company only recently started to recover from another food scandal in 2012, when a media report alleged two KFC suppliers were pumping chickens full of growth hormones and an excessive amount of antibiotics. (They couldn’t have fattened them up with some of the Colonel’s Southern Pulled Pork Rollers instead?) Analysts expect the company’s reputation in China to recover. Until the next scandal, that is.