Exclusive Interview with Kenny Ye, Director at the International Business Department of UCWeb

Recently, ProPakistani got a chance to sit down with Kenny Ye, a director at the International Business Department of UCWeb (the parent company of the very popular UC Browser).

He is in charge of overall business and growth of the company in global emerging markets, especially in south Asia. He has extensive experience in technology consultancy and business development in the telecommunication and mobile internet industries.

Tell us about UC Browser’s presence and the work you’ve done in Pakistan.

According to StatCounter, a third-party research firm, UC Browser is the No.1 mobile browser in Pakistan with over 28% market share as of the end of H1 2015 in terms of monthly page view generated. Thanks to the growing popularity of 3G/4G and smartphone adoption, UC Browser’s Android users has grown over 300% over the past one year.

The popularity of UC Browser in Pakistan also attributes to its efforts in product localization that caters to underserved user demands, technologies that speed up web browsing as well as the upsurge of the smartphone.

Firstly, data compression and cloud acceleration, two technologies UC Browser are well versed in, are fully adapted in Pakistan, where network infrastructure is relatively underdeveloped. They not only save data consumption and make mobile browsing more affordable, but also significantly speed up web page loading under various networks.

The past few years have seen fast-lane growth in smartphone shipments in Pakistan. Riding on the smartphone shift, UC Browser crafted a flurry of handy features, such as its Smart Downloader, Video Player and Gesture Support, to fully exploit the versatility of the smartphone, making mobile browsing easier and smarter for its users.

Additionally, UC Browser offers a series of content and services meticulously selected to meet local users’ demands. For instance, the new UC Cricket is created to help Pakistan users stay tuned with the most current information of their favorite sport.

What makes Pakistan an interesting market? How has the introduction of 3G/4G affected the mobile browser segment?

In the first place, Pakistan is a country with nearly 190 million people – a populous and fast-growing market that no internet company can’t afford to ignore. According to a report by GFK, one of the largest market research institute, smartphone penetration in Pakistan is growing rapidly.

Secondly, Pakistan has been always in our roadmap. We take Pakistan as an important part of South Asian market, where countries have a lot in common, in terms of user behaviors, network infrastructure, income, etc. We have established a stronghold in India and has operated an office in New Delhi for 3 years. With experience in catering to local users in the region, we are confident to expanding our presence in Pakistan.

feature phones vs smartphones pakistanThe Spectrum Auction in 2014 was a wake-up call. It signaled nothing less than a great opportunity to us. While expecting more fierce competition in the browser market, we foresee a bigger pie brought by the popularity of smartphones and 3G/4G. Early 2015, smartphone users accounted for less than 80% of all Pakistani UC Browser users. Since then, it has grown to 86.5% as of the end of June.

What are you hoping to achieve in the country? What are the goals for the market?

We are growing very fast in the country and currently we have not set any targets for Pakistani business. But we believe in focusing on how we can better serve local users. Localization is always the first priority of our product development.

We are investing more on product R&D and local recruitments to better serve our users in the country. Apart from that, we are reaching out to potential business partners (e.g. local content and service providers) in the country, hoping to foster an ecosystem where everyone can benefit from.

Do you plan to localize the content? Can we expect partnerships with local media companies for exclusive content?

“Glocalization” is our primary strategy in global expansion, which means technology globalization and operation/product/partnership localization.

Firstly, technology  the stepping stone for overseas expansion. It can address the basic need, and so it develops and spreads without being hindered by geographical and cultural barriers. Our iconic cloud technology and proprietary U3 kernel engine enable us to stand out as a leading mobile internet service provider. Many popular features of UC Browser among Pakistani users are based on these technologies, including Smart Downloading.

The second thing is localization. Different countries have different users with different demands. To penetrate the market and reach local users, UC Browser has to redesign browsers features or tweak its technologies to cater it to local user demands. At the same time, we look for local partners, such as web content and services providers, to build up an ecosystem.

We value the partnership with local partners. Our fast-paced growth in the world could also be largely ascribed to the tight partnership with local companies. Our partners are from various sectors, from carriers, developers to advertisers, content providers and publishers, etc. Working closely together we built up a healthy, growing and vibrant platform that benefits each participant. Local media companies are the very first partners that we are looking for.

How have market trends like use of apps over browsers impacted UCWeb?

UC Browser has witnessed the internet revolution brought about by mobile phones since 2004, and has established its leadership as the No.1 mobile browser in China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia and more through the years. The biggest reason UC Browser survives and stands out from the competition is that it provides something the local users really need.

At first, the internet was an expensive technology for many people in developing countries, but we were able to make it more affordable by using our cloud technology which can compress data and speed up browsing experience. UC Browser also provided users with an all-in-one local website navigation – it serves as a gateway to internet. As a result, a lot of users were able to access the internet for the first time by using UC Browser on mobile phones rather than PCs.

The versatility of the mobile browser continues to provide fast all-in-one web experience to users in the smartphone era, despite of the rising of apps. UC Browser comes with many powerful and useful features.

For instance, Smart Downloading feature is popular among Pakistani users, which can achieve industry-leading download speed with the ability to automatically resume interrupted downloads. The video playing experience on UC Browser is also smooth and outstanding. Ad-block is another feature that the users love.

Apps are on the rise, but mobile browser is always irreplaceable.

Talal is a Director at ProPakistani. Reach out at [email protected]