Alibaba Group owned UC Browser has crossed over 130 Monthly Active Users in India and has introduced the 12th version of its platform that enables half data consumption than its counterparts. Shallia Li, Head of UC Browser (International Business Department) at Alibaba Mobile Business Group, was in India to introduce this latest version of UC Browser and Haider Ali Khan got into a chit chat with her on the plans and how things will shape up for UC Browser in India. Excerpts:
Now that UC Browser has hit 130 Million MAUs in India. Are you satisfied with it and what are the catalysts of this paradigm shift in UC Browser?
UC Browser has crossed 130 Million Monthly Active Users (MAUs) in India. At a total of 450 million mobile internet users, 1 in every 4 Indian is now accessing internet via UC Browser on their mobile devices.
As more users switch to a smart phone from a feature phone and start accessing the Internet for the first time using a mobile, it becomes important for them to have access to a platform that is not only user friendly but also guides them to meaningful content.
UCWeb is successfully catering to this and other segments of mobile internet users in the country with their one of a kind mobile browser, UC Browser. Ever since its launch, UC Browser has captured the largest market share to become the leading third party mobile internet browser in the country and has emerged as one of the top free apps on Play Store.
With the objective of helping mobile internet novices transition to internet savvy “netizens” and thereby, increasing the mobile internet penetration in the country, UC Browser has developed and integrated specific localized features. For instance, there are regions in India where internet connectivity is low. In such regions, UC Browser’s data compression technology becomes a great help. Here, websites which would otherwise take a lot of time to load, open quickly. This in turn also increases the download speed. For people who commute daily and wish to enjoy internet content on the move without exhausting their data plan, the browser allows download of videos and news articles for offline viewing.
Further, UC Browser enables local content such that users can enjoy quick and easy access to updates on popular sporting events like Cricket, entertainment related content from Bollywood or even PNR status for Indian railways. Offering the netizens the ability to customize the UI, browsing in incognito mode along with the speed mode, effective download manager, the unique features and unique Add-on Platform by UC Browser enables the user to consume information from the World Wide Web while on the move.
UC Browser has come up with the 12.0 version of the Browser. What are the changes have you incorporated in it with respect to India?
As a content aggregation platform powered by big data, UC Browser 12.0 gives users a refreshing experience with its new features. Video watching is more joyful & saves data, making it a friendly option for budget phones. Adding the Smart Weather and Smart Zodiac Signs feature, browsing is now more personalized. The Browser is getting smarter and the content richer. UC Browser users will now save over 50% internet data while watching videos, which can play without buffering. There is automatic switch definition and a video preview feature as well. The new version guarantees better viewing experience for lower-end phones. It optimizes video loading and downloading of top sites and pre-loading of video information flow. There is optimization of thread count and increase in specified cruising speed from 100% to 200%.
Currently, UC Browser has a market share of over 43% as per StatCounter and is the sixthmost downloaded app in India. The future is bright for you. Isn’t it? Will you be able to challenge the might of Facebook and Google in India?
UCWeb is leading the change in the Mobile Internet landscape in India – bringing dual advantage to the UC Customer: faster browsing and customized content. UCWeb is committed to India and our focus will continue to be of a content distribution platform and a content aggregator. We will work to offer content providers a platform connect with users while users will be able to receive their favourite content when there is an abundance of information available online.
We see a lot of potential and possibilities in the country. Our vision is to be the gateway to the world of Internet for millions of people who are accessing internet for the first time on their mobile phones. With over 50% market share in India, we envision UCWeb to be as big as Google and Facebook and bring the mobile internet to an era of “GUF”: Google UCWeb and Facebook.
What are the advantages and disadvantages for UC Browser over most popular social platforms available as well as browsers?
As millions of users switch from a feature phone to a smart-phone and start accessing the Internet for the first time using a mobile, the content consumption demand of these users also goes up. It becomes important for them to have access to a platform that is not only user friendly but also guides them to meaningful content. This becomes all the more pertinent to first-time mobile internet users who are complete novices to browsing and struggle to find the right content.
We believe that as more and more content is generated and consumed online the consumption time will become more fragmented. The content should be more local and relevant to each individual user. And UC Browser is ahead of the curve when it comes to customised, rich content.
All our efforts are directed to increase the user base. We believe that our user base will increase in conjunction with the content that we can offer. Our faster browsing capabilities and the value proposition there in is quite well known.
We now want to grow with the consumers. As they see the value that internet can add to the lives they will graduate from being users to practitioners thereby moving some of the essential activities to mobile phone. The MAU’s will grow in future on the strength of progress that we make in providing the right kind of content to our users.
UC Browser has an idea of “Content for everyone, Every Content for One”. What does it mean for the consumers and contributors?
Content for everyone” essentially means making the content accessible for all the users including mobile-first users, in all kind of data network conditions. UCWeb has always been dedicated in making content easily accessible for users, even when they are in the limited bandwidth area. As the users demand is evolving, we are also upgrading our technology. Our data compression technology is providing “No buffering” video watching experience in this new version of UC Browser 12.0. Not just that, the new version will save over 50% of your internet data compared with our last version.
We believe that, as more and more content are generated and consumed online, the consumption time will become more fragmented. The content should be more local and relevant to each individual user. That’s what we mean when we say “every content for one”. Every content consumed by consumer should be highly relevant and personalized to you as per your individual taste and preference.
What are the pain points of a person consuming data online when it’s easily and abundantly available at much lesser cost now?
We know that India has a huge appetite for content, and people like to consume different kinds of content available online. Smartphone penetration is expected to reach 520 million by 2020 (Ernst & Young), and 45% of all content consumed expected to be on the small screen at that time.
Content providers are facing difficulties to distribute content of diverse formats at the same time. Consumers are lost in the ocean of content, as there are so many choices from different portals, or application.
UC Browser is a gateway to internet for many users in the country. It has been helping millions of users to get connected with the world. Content consumption is on the rise, user behavior are changing, to better serve our users, we now position us as a content distributor instead of just a browsing tool.
Content consumption on UC Browser has been on a steady rise. The browser has witnessed 50% growth in page views on UC Browser’ news feed from 2nd Quarter to 4th Quarter in 2017 in both India and Indonesia markets. Keeping this in mind, UC Browser has upgraded from a traditional tool-plus product to a content distribution platform powered by big data technology. It provides Indian users with numerous content of diverse genre in the form of photo, text and video. UC Browser’s ‘
By leveraging the Big Data Technology we are able to serve as a platform for our users by providing them customised and personalised information. In other words, we connect the right content with the right user. That is also how we see our evolving role in the Indian Mobile Internet sector: To Serve as a content distribution platform for our users.
UC Browser has made significant inroads into South Asian countries but, it stands nowhere in Europe and US market. Why is it so? How will you approach those markets?
We are doing very well globally with 430 Million MAU’s and counting. India is one of the largest markets for us and currently drives our growth in the Asian continent. UC Browser is the leading mobile browser in India and Indonesia. We are the leader in Asia and one of top 3 in the world. We are also witnessing great traction for our products in Russia and South East Asia.
How India is different from other emerging markets and what opportunities do you see here?
UCWeb in every market is guided by its mission to connect people. As a leader in the mobile internet sphere we work as a gateway to content through the mobile internet through which people access information, opportunities which make a meaningful difference to their lives.
We will continue to address the key challenge faced by users and partners i.e. content discovery and navigation for users and content distribution by publishers & partners.
India in the upcoming years will easily surpass the mark of 500 million mobile internet users. With numbers like that, undoubtedly, India will be the leading power to drive the growth of the world’s mobile internet economy. Now, we need to prepare ourselves to serve India in a more efficient and optimum way. The answer lies in “Glocalization” through which we shall serve, communicate and cooperate with the local communities and enterprises who share the same value with us and welcome them to be a part of this changing face of mobile internet.
There is immense opportunity in India, look at the sheer difference between the size of population and the number of people who have access to internet. By a conservative estimate that in itself is a 700 million people, who are waiting to explore the wonderful world of internet.
The challenge is the device ecosystem; while the number of smartphone is growing in India almost every study says that feature phone sales will continue to match with the sale of smartphones in India.
Since feature phone outsell smartphones, it becomes difficult for a user to discover local application and content. Hence stems the need to create a bridge, which we are trying to do with our new positioning.