The coronavirus pandemic which has been wreaking havoc on a global-scale came along as the harbinger of tough times for both big and small organisations all over the world. Amid these extreme times, many companies had to lay off their employees, pull back on marketing spends and even choose to wind up; UC News is one of those. If we believe on rumours, UC News, a product of the China-based company UCWeb, is going to be the latest addition among the ones who failed to make it as well because it allegedly all set up to exit India.
Along with the Bytedance-owned short video sharing app Vigo and Kwai which have already announced they are shutting their operations in India, UC News, according to a report published in Chinese media Late Post, will take a similar route. However, it should also be noted that there seems to exist a plan for it to later get merged with Ali Health which is currently being headed by Zhu Shunyan – a former UCWeb executive who has recently joined Alibaba’s medical service arm.
According to sources who are aware of this plan, since its launch four years ago in India, UC News happened to be unable to garner the amount of traction it hoped for especially when DailyHunt came into the market space as well. Thus, it is not very surprising that the COVID-19 situation acted as the final nail its coffin in India.
In a statement about the same, a former executive of the company, under the condition of anonymity, said that winding up operations in India is probably the most logical step as of right now because its parent company UCWeb happened to stop pushing this product from the second half of 2019.
In India, under UC Web, Alibaba runs four different entities which are – UC Browser, UC News, VMate and 9Apps. In 2017, a year after its launch, UC News made a humongous claim of having 58% market share and a mammoth user base of 80 million in India. Alibaba, taking note of the same, made a commitment of investing Rs 200 crore to push UC News in India and Indonesia as well.
Back in the year 2018, UC News happened to stand at the top in terms of downloads with more than 500 million global users and over 130 million active users in India. However, it failed to keep a hold on the momentum and soon the app’s ranking on Google Play Store started to fall drastically from the top 500 list. As of now, UC News, unfortunately, has less than 500,000 users who access it every day.
The primary reason for the failure of UC News, according to the insider sources who are aware of these developments, is the absolute absence of the required focus and coherent strategies that were needed to help the app grow and thrive. Something similar to NewsDog which met the same fate.
NewsDog was a news aggregation app which was backed by Tencent. The company, instead of focusing solely on growing NewsDog, launched another app known as YoYo. It was a short video entertainment app which happened to fail as well.
Now, if UC News shuts down in India, it will be the third product to have failed in India in the year 2020 as earlier this month Vigo India and Kwai announced that they are winding up as well. Similar to the plans of UC News to merge with Ali Health, these apps have reported being planning to merge with TikTok and UVideo respectively.
Apart from UC News, VMate which a product of the same parent company UC Web, has also been struggling because of the presence of ByteDance in India. It wouldn’t be too surprising if soon we find VMate on the exit route as well. The company, however, has currently been downscaling their workforce in order to extend the runway.
The wind up of these Chinese companies from India isn’t particularly alarming during this time because of another very significant reason which shouldn’t be missed out on. A huge chunk of Indian consumers, as of late, have been extremely vocal about their anti-China stance because of the ongoing border tensions between India and China. Many have also started to actively take measures to boycott the Chinese products in India by uninstalling Chinese origin apps and swearing off products made in China.
The scenario in India, however, doesn’t look very positive for Chinese apps. Just yesterday the Indian government banned 59 popular Chinese apps including TikTok and UC Browser. The move is being seen as a response by agitated India. Interestingly, the other reports claim that India is also working on a plan to curb on all China investment rourted via other countries like Singapore.
It would be interesting to see how exactly China is going to response to all such developments in India that took in a very short span of time. While companies are either getting banned or exiting India due to business viability reasons, India also wouldn’t remain unaffected in terms of employment and FDIs.