Chinese mobile handset manufacturers dominating the Indian mobile devices market was not surprising given their dominance in manufacturing but Chinese apps taking over the Indian app ecosystem is a big surprise for many. Five out of the top 10 mobile apps in India are Chinese.

Few reasons for the spectacular success of Chinese: deep pockets for marketing expense, focus on vernacular Indian users, an addictive user interface, racy content, quick iterations and execution cycles, and cheap offerings. Chinese companies are fast learning the nuances of doing business in India. They opt for local talent and local content to make inroads in the Indian market. Companies are not focussing on the top 100 million urban crowd which is well served. Their target is the next 200 million to 600 million consumers, who do not have a go-to entertainment, payment or ecommerce platform yet. Shadma rings the alarm bell for Indian players and says “If Indian app entrepreneurs can make good learnings from the Chinese invading their fief, it may stem the hollowing out of the Indian app ecosystem.”

“….TikTok is a Youtube killer.” “Helo is giving ShareChat a tough time and has a higher chance of winning India market.” “TikTok is like Instagram for India.” “Bigo Live is a platform for companionship.”

For those trying to make sense of the Chinese dominance of the Indian app ecosystem, these are familiar statements. Yet, until about a year or a little more ago, these platforms and their Chinese parents were not heard of. Now, they are not just a rage but have inspired several dozens of other platforms to launch and experiment in the internet booming India market. 2018 is likely to be remembered as the year when the Chinese took over Indian smartphones. In December 2017, the top 10 mobile apps on Google Playstore looked a lot different than what they look from a year later. The Playstore rankings for India in 2018 have China written all over it. Five out of the top 10 mobile apps in India are Chinese — versus two at the end of 2017. That’s not all. As of December 2017, there were 18 Chinese apps among the top 100 across various categories on Google Playstore. These included popular ones such as UCBrowser, SHAREit, and NewsDog. Fast forward to the end of 2018. The number of Chinese apps in the top 100 Playstore apps has reached 44. Beyond the top 100, there are others like Rozbuzz, a social entertainment content platform, and YouStar, a video chat room platform, that enjoy a more than one million downloads in India – a threshold that evokes grudging respect in this app community……..There are many things that are common between Chinese apps launching in India: deep pockets for marketing expense, focus on vernacular India users, an addictive user interface, racy content, quick iterations and execution cycles, and cheap offerings to name a few. Also, there’s a huge emphasis to shed the “Chinese” tag. This could be an effort to address the general mistrust among Indians of Chinese products or a precautionary PR exercise.

In 2012, when Tencent’s relatively popular messenger WeChat launched in India it spared no expense in marketing and branding of the product. From product launches in malls to roping in popular Bollywood actors as brand ambassadors, WeChat launched and acquired users with commendable speed. But as the platform started getting more mainstream in China, its growth in India tanked. By 2015, Tencent wound up its WeChat team in India. “A lot of it had to do with failing to localise the platform for India,” says Himanshu Gupta, former associate director of marketing and strategy, WeChat India. Nevertheless, WeChat’s failure presents learnings for the Chinese ambitions of making India their next big market. Not only are Chinese entrepreneurs aware of it, but they also understand the nuances of the India market. This is evident from the strategy adopted by popular Chinese players in the India vernacular content market. For example, Helo by ByteDance has a local team entirely based in New Delhi…….


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