By Sankalp Phartiyal
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp launched its online lending service in India on Tuesday, widening its offering of financial products in one of the world's biggest web services markets.
Xiaomi's Mi Credit connects smartphone users with lending firms, giving them access to quick loans of up to 100,000 rupees ($1,393.34), the company's India head Manu Jain told reporters.
The company has partnered with five shadow banking and fintech firms for the service, which will audit the creditworthiness of customers and disburse loans.
Beijing-headquartered Xiaomi first moved into India's fast-growing financial services space in March with Mi Pay, which allows bill payments and money transfers.
While smartphones are the core of its business, Xiaomi earns low margins from its affordable devices and relies on services for long-term profit.
According to forecasts by research firm Boston Consulting Group, India's digital lending market may be worth $1 trillion by 2023.
Mi Pay has already pitched the firm against global tech giants Amazon and Alphabet's Google, which offer similar services in India.
"For now India definitely is our biggest market outside China, not only in Credit but pretty much in everything else," said Hong Feng, the company's co-founder and senior vice president.
"We need to focus ourselves to make it really successful. We need to bring in more partners, bring more products, bring more users to make it really scale up. That's our focus for the next 12 months."
Xiaomi is not in a hurry to expand into more geographical regions, Fend added.
In Indonesia, another key market, Xiaomi's financial unit had to shut down in late 2018 due to a disagreement with regulators over licensing.
On Tuesday, Jain also sought to allay concerns over privacy of Mi Credit users in a country which is yet to make a law on data protection. User data is 100% encrypted and cannot be misused, Jain said.
"We have strong data protection agreements with each of our partners that they cannot use this data for any other purpose, apart from giving loans to users," he added.
($1 = 71.7700 Indian rupees)
(Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Jan Harvey)