“I wasn’t always a VIP.”

“I wasn’t always a VIP.”:

Eva Dou on Xiaomi’s embracing (and empowerment) of their fans:

Mr. Zhao, a stocky factory worker originally from China’s distant Gansu province, works 29 of 30 days on a Hangzhou-area assembly line, earning about $650 a month. In his spare time, he spends two to three hours each evening on Xiaomi forums, answering other users’ questions. All the hours he has logged have made him a “VIP” in Xiaomi circles.

“I wasn’t always a VIP,” he said. “I remember what it is like as a low-ranked fan, so now I try to help others.”

He says he has received gifts from Xiaomi as thanks for his contributions, including a Web camera and two WiFi-controlled smart-plug adapters. “Being part of Xiaomi’s community gives me a sense of achievement,” he said.

Easy to scoff at this, but it seems like a rather brilliant maneuver Xiaomi’s part. People joke that Apple has a “cult-like” following, Xiaomi is choosing to fully embrace and even play up that aspect of its products.