Xiaomi opens second headquarters in Wuhan, hometown of founder Lei Jun, as it doubles down on R&D in artificial intelligence

Zen Soo

Smartphone maker Xiaomi on Wednesday officially opened its second headquarters in Wuhan, the capital city of China’s central Hubei province. The building will house 10,000 employees over the next decade as the company invests more in artificial intelligence (AI) research.

The new headquarters, located in the Wuhan East Lake High-tech Development Zone, is a research and development centre for AI, internet of things, big data, software and internet entertainment. Xiaomi’s first headquarters are in Beijing.

Currently, the Wuhan facility houses about 2,000 employees, mostly local recruits, who work on projects including research and development on Xiaomi’s open platform for the Xiao Ai smart voice assistant, as well as a Xiao Ai data platform.

Xiaomi founder and chief executive Lei Jun, a Wuhan native, decided to build the headquarters in his hometown two years ago after the city launched a campaign exhorting alumni of Wuhan universities to return to the city and contribute to its development. Construction began in November last year.

“Wuhan is the starting point of my life and my career, and I have many memories of my youth here,” Lei said at the launch ceremony. “That’s why I want to do something for Wuhan and the Wuhan East Lake High-tech Development Zone.”

Xiaomi smartphone sales surge 73% in Europe

The company’s move to build a second headquarters in Wuhan also comes as local governments in cities such as Wuhan, Xian and Chengdu make a bigger push towards boosting the technology industry. Shanghai-based e-commerce platform Xiaohongshu opened a new facility in Wuhan last year.

These cities are popular among tech companies because they are near universities and have access to technology talent.

Last month Xiaomi posted its slowest-ever quarterly revenue growth since it went public in 2017, as it grappled for market share with rival Huawei Technologies. Huawei has shifted its focus to increasing sales in China, following a slowdown in overseas sales after the company lost access to Google services on Android when it was put on a US trade blacklist.

While sales of smartphones still make up the bulk of Xiaomi’s revenues, it has increasingly promoted its online advertising sales, which account for about 10 per cent of revenue. The company is also looking towards international expansion in markets like Southeast Asia as smartphone sales in its home market slow.

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