Browser and search engine UCWeb claims 50pc market shares in India and Indonesia

Company changes name to ‘UC’, as it reveals milestone of recording more than 400 million monthly active users globally

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2016, 5:34pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 August, 2016, 8:30pm

UCWeb, the mobile browsing arm of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group which is behind the UC Browser, is claiming more than 50 per cent shares of both the Indian and Indonesian mobile browser and search engine markets, six years after entering the countries for the first time.

The company also revealed it has reached the milestone of recording more than 400 million monthly active users globally, including 88 million in India.

Amid stagnant growth in mobile internet usage and cutthroat competition in its home market, the Chinese company said the successes have been built on its relentless effort to adapt to both media environments, spearheaded by local sales teams, and a lack of any strong local competitors.

“In these markets [UCWeb] has focused on being a big ‘platform’ that enables users to discover content.

Indian viewers have a much stronger appetite for sport, music and videos, while less interest in social and gossip news, as in China
He Xiaopeng, UCWeb’s president

“We don’t care about short-term revenue and profit overseas. And we don’t rely on small apps to acquire traffic,” said He Xiaopeng, UCWeb’s president.

His comments came as the company officially shortened its name from UCWeb to just “UC”, in an effort to highlight its upgrade from being a simple browser to what officials called a “digital media and entertainment platform”, which along with other operations such as Alibaba Music, and Alibaba Pictures, form the company’s growing culture and entertainment matrix.

In a separate announcement, it said in partnership with Mumbai entertainment TV station Colors, it is also launching an English language news conglomerate, “UC News”.

“India is among the few markets that still see traditional media outlets growing,” He explained.

“This is different from China and Indonesia, where social media and online celebrity culture dominate.

“Indian viewers have a much stronger appetite for sport, music and videos, while less interest in social and gossip news, as in China,” He said.

The company employs nearly 100 staff in India, and a few less in Indonesia, mainly business development and marketing staff, who are backed up by much larger technical and products team in Guangzhou, He said, within a total workforce of 500.

Chen Chao, the company’s general manager, said it is relatively easy building a successful presence in markets like India and Indonesia, where users are happier to accept foreign companies, and there is a lack of competitive local firms.

UCWeb has far less interest in developed markets such as Japan, he added, for instance.

The company’s expansion in the emerging markets comes as growth in the number of mobile internet users has plateaued in China, and browser competition has intensified between rivals such as QQ, which is backed by Tencent, and Baidu’s own browser.

Zhu Dalin, an analyst with Analysys International, said the announcements underlined UCWeb’s ambition to become a major platform, which alll users can access easily.

“It is also stressing its customised feeds, but its competitors are doing this.

“China’s mobile internet landscape has changed so fast that it may not necessarily have developed in the way that UC wished,” said Zhu.

Unlike during the personal computer age, mobile users can now access content through a various of ways, so browsers such as UC have to fight even harder for users, analysts say.

India and Indonesia have become natural targets for UCWeb, despite having to overcome tough regulatory risks.

The company has also built a strong presence in Iran, before being blocked by the Iranian government overnight, along with Facebook and Google.

He Xiaopeng said the biggest challenge in India turned out to be poor infrastructure, on top of a lack of electricity, water and online payment tools.

UCWeb’s local operating experience could potentially be an asset for its parent Alibaba, which is also exploring opportunities in markets including India.

Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.