Poor financial management & failure to adapt to market dynamics are by-far the most serious mistakes that we learn to avoid in Business 101. However, we still heard established companies making these mistakes. Few years back, X-Mini committed all these mistakes.
Now, they are making a comeback with their latest range of products. In September 2018, XMI, the company that shocked the world in 2007 with their ionic capsule speakers X-Mini, made a global debut of their first earbuds series. This is their latest product development after XMI’s parent company Insonotech took over listing status of Technics Oil & Gas (stock quote: 5CQ.SI) . The latest round of SGD 5m funding also sees the reshuffling of the key management in XMI – Mr Hoong He Hin takes over from co-founder and former CEO, Ryan Lee, who now serves as the brand’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Mr. Keith Wong is appointed as the new Chief Operations Officer. The share (5CQ.SI) is still suspended pending for the Exchange’s approval at the point of writing.
Formerly, the Group CEO of Onwards Media Group Pte. Ltd., Mr. Hoong brings with him 16 years of business development experience in content distribution signaling a change in X-mini’s business direction away from a pure audio speaker maker to an audio specialist in consumer space.
“X-mini became a success story for Singapore consumer technology and innovation when it launched its groundbreaking capsule speaker in 2007,” says Mr. Hoong He Hin. “We look forward to taking X-mini to new heights by expanding into new product categories, as well as providing more digital content to our customers in the future. We also plan to double total staff strength from 20 to 40 to build our engineering, product management and sales and marketing teams, in order to meet market demand for new product offerings.”
Change For Better
Few years ago, XMI was struggling financially and mostly, it was the management’s fault. In the interview with Straits Times in 2017, one of their co-founders Mr. Ryan Lee admitted that they have overspent and didn’t save enough during the good days. In 2010, they started their own factory in China and revenues has been good averaging SGD 30M a year from 2011 to 2014. However, they got arrogant – overpaying their executives, over-expansion of offices and manufacturing facilities and overproduction. These are some of the oversight from the management.
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XMI is coming back with new management. Ryan Lee, Co-Founder of the company has departed from his position as #CEO; he is replaced by Hoong He Hin but he will serve as the company’s #CTO. #instagadget #entrepreneurship #businessman #sgbusiness #instabusiness #sgtech #instatech
No doubt, Mr. Ryan Lee is a visionary leader but afterall, he is a tech guy who might be more suitable in developing new products. Placing Mr. Ryan as the CTO is the right move, at least in my opinion. His role as CTO will see him continue the core DNA of how the brand first made their name – innovation – across X-mini’s range of products. The brand’s founder says, “We are excited about exploring new technologies for X-mini: Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) provide a treasure trove opportunities for the brand, as we continue to innovate by leveraging on our expertise in audio engineering and delivering great sound to consumers moving forward.”
Diversity is Good but Lacks Focus
XMI is taking steps to rebuild the business and expand its product range, with new staff and management to drive the business forward. Since the fund injection in 2017, the company has turned a corner in terms of getting a whole new product range on the market and made significant inroads in re-establishing a market presence in this region.
This time, XMI launches 8 different earbuds; each of them selling at different price positioning themselves as a brand-for-all. You could get a good-quality, entry-level earphones slightly less than USD 15 (I am referring to the newly launched X-Mini Nova). The better model, the X-Mini Xtlas which supports Hi Res audio, is selling not more than USD 100. Marketers who are reading this part may have noticed this – the price difference between the high and the low-quality is a mere USD 85. In terms of pricing strategies, X-Mini is trying to sell different models to different market segments within this narrow price band of USD 85 and that could “confuse” the market value of the brand. Think of this scenario – the 15-dollar earbuds may sell well in developing economies, but the market will label “X-Mini” as a cheap brand and when that happens, how is the market going to response when XMI is also selling high-quality X-Mini earbuds but comparatively cheaper than similar products of different brands? On top of that, how about the profit margin when you are selling below market price?
Market has changed even in our neighboring countries. The rise of middle-class presents an opportunity as they are demanding more and have the capacity to spend. Streamlining your product ranges and consolidating your resources to create one or two killer products to capture this market segment may be a better bet than trying to capture all. I have my doubts on the feasibility of their current strategies.
Being a tech writer, I am lucky enough to get first-hand information of the latest gadget in town. I know how to sniff out good product. Standing as a consumer’s point of view, X-Mini sells good products at attractive price-point. Unfortunately, most consumers don’t have the level of knowledge and usually make buying decision based on what they see, hear and feel about the brand. To put it in another words, X-Mini as a brand has yet to stand out against competition from the big boys. From a marketing prospective, I can’t identify the positioning of X-Mini.
Looking At The Bright Side
On the positive note, there are people in the market still believe in X-Mini. In
2015, Polaris Ltd (Stock Quote: SGX:5BI) is one of the early investors who extended their help to XMI by investing 30% of equity interest through an unsecured loan of USD 1.5M. During the same period, XMI’s founders also sought help from 3Fs (the common term used in the business world to describe the kind of investors of a startup – 3Fs namely Friends, Family & Fools). In 2016, they managed to raise USD 8M. In the same year, they parted way with Polaris. This year, they received a further SGD 5M.
If the funding round continues, XMI should be able to overcome their financial woes and even further entrench their business footholds in the region. Judging from their corporate action with the SGX-listed Technics Oil & Gas, I believe potential investors in Singapore or perhaps South East Asia will be interested in the company. I am expecting more fund-raising activities from XMI which I think it is by far, the most important factor to determine whether the company could be turned around.
Also published on Medium.