While the brands were never out of reach, my purchases were limited to MiJia products out of need whereas the other brands are more lifestyle focused. However, with the launch of the ShareSave service by Xiaomi, I decided to have a go at purchasing a couple of Yeelight products to go along with the new lighting system I set up in my house.
I have been accustomed to buying products of Chinese origin from AliExpress for years now and thus I am well acquainted with the various brands promoted by Xiaomi as part of its ecosystem like Huami, Yeelight and MiJia to name a few. Like Xiaomi, their products are targeted towards offering value for money with a simple design aesthetic.
The ShareSave site isn’t directly accessible on the desktop and only promotes the Google Play app which seems to be very poorly reviewed on account of the number of requested permissions. Being on iOS, there was (thankfully) no app option present necessitating a number of permissions and instead I was able to access it using Safari.
However, that is as far as I could go in terms of retaining my privacy. The checkout process necessitates the uploading of Aadhar card for customs, which is out of place considering the restriction on the use of Aadhar for private purposes. Having left no recourse, apart from refusing to purchase, I decided to part ways with a part of my identity with a Chinese firm. However, that was not the only part of identity I had to forego as I had to also submit my PAN, thereby completing the Aadhar-PAN linkage that caused so much brouhaha in the past.
Taking a step back to product selection, one might find it a little limited, considering the variety of goods sold in Chinese storefronts. People looking to pick up some nifty gadgets might be a tad disappointed. However, if you do find something you like, the price is much cheaper than what you can find the product for in AliExpress, provided you can partner up with someone, thereby justifying the name of this service. Also, although the prices are listed in USD, the final payment is done in INR using Razorpay, with the rates being a direct USD to INR conversion that can be replicated using Google, unlike USD purchases on AliExpress for which you get charged a substantial additional amount by the card issuer.
I imagined a lot of people would like to go with the Yeelight products and I wasn’t wrong in assuming so. However, when I did initiate a purchase, I didn’t find a partner for over 24 hours and ended up the wasting my discount coupons in the bargain, the ones offered on sign-up. During this time, I could see other buyers looking for partners, so I am unsure why I wasn’t patched up with them. It may possibly me due to the fact that I wasn’t on the app but I can only speculate. In the end, I ended partnering up with someone else looking for a mate and the amount for the auto-cancelled order was refunded only a few days later.
Once the purchase was completed, I was expecting to get details of the logistics but that didn’t turn out to be the case. The items were being shipped out of Hong Kong so I knew from my previous experience from AliExpress that it would take about a week or so for the product to arrive. But there was absolutely no details shared about the courier at any stage until the product went out for delivery through Delhivery. As expected, the time from purchase to delivery was 8 days.
With the clamp down on import of Chinese goods, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of custom duties. The combined purchase value was over $40 and the two items I ordered arrived together, so I expected to have to cough up some dough on delivery. However, that was not the case. Each of the package contained clearance slips detailing the custom duties, but I wasn’t charged any by the courier. The expectation is that this cost was borne by Xiaomi but then my Aadhar number was included against GSTIN, so I am unsure what to expect.
On the whole, the experience was quite smooth. The prices of the available items are cheaper than AliExpress and shipping is much quicker than AliExpress Standard shipping. There is also a 7-day return period with cost borne by Xiaomi if the product is wrong or DOA, something you wouldn’t get from AliExpress. On the flip side, the entire custom duty situation is unclear and although I didn’t have to pay it upfront, I am unsure how it would PAN out over time. For now, I can recommend going ahead with this service, in case something catches your fancy.