We chat up with Mr. Kenny Ye, Managing Director, UCWeb India and discuss about what makes UC Browser the most popular mobile web browser in the country. Also, we talk about their highly active user community and the future updates that we are going to see soon from UCWeb.
Here's an edited version of the entire interview:
Digit: What features does UC Browser have to offer which aren't available in the other mobile web browsers? What is making users switch from their default stock browser?
Kenny: UC browser is the first fresh product from UCWeb initially released back in 2004. It is the first mobile web browser to introduce the cloud computing technology even on the feature phones. At that time the handset processing capability wasn’t good enough, and when we introduced the technology to the users to access the Internet using their low end handsets, the user experience was very bad comparatively to the current smartphones. After that, we brought the technology from the feature phones to the smartphones and made it even better, as the processing capability of the computer improved drastically. We also integrated and improved the cloud computing technology to have a better user experience. If we want to differentiate the advantages of UC Browser, there are two important parts. The first is the technology because UCWeb is a technology oriented company and it was the first to introduce cloud computing in a mobile web browser and we continue to invest in the technology and resources. So 80% of our staff are from product and IT and we make all our efforts to improve the technology. This is why we can provide a different user experience to users on UC browser. The second thing is about localised content because as you know that the normal browser has blank pages and the users don’t know what they can get from the internet. Through UC browser we localise the navigation pages and also we integrate a lot of the content, famous websites and also services into the browser. This way the user can very easily and conveniently access any service and content. So, I think these two things make us different in the market.
Digit: Talking about the rise in mobile data traffic in India, how is that working out for you? How many active users do you currently see in India and how much do you expect in the future?
Kenny: As we all know there was a huge increase in the shipment of the smartphones last year, and the users increased very fast, leading us to a growth rate of more than 100% last year. Our market share according to StatCounter, increased from 32% to 44% (Mar 2015) last year in India which is a very huge progress. Everyone in the industry dreams to acquire a part of the 500 million smartphone users and we are expecting a good growth in this industry. Talking about marketing, we cannot only stick to word-of-mouth and I think that UC browser is a very special product, used almost daily by the our users. If you are interested in the news or any type of content, you can use this application everyday. We focus to merge on the user experience in order to get the word-of-mouth. If you go to the Google Play Store, we have a 4.5 rating which we got from the users and we also maintain a good relation with our huge user community on Facebook, with more than 3 million Indian fans on the Facebook page. There are interesting cases when we go through the user survey. When we ask them how did they get to know about UC browser, most of the user say they were introduced to the app by their friends.
UC Browser has a market share of 44.51% as of March 2015
Digit: With Internet.org, how do you think UC Browser's own curated app can contribute to increase the Internet penetration of the local users? What are your current stats?
Kenny: I think the purpose for Internet.org is to increase the penetration of the Internet in India. At UC Browser we have the same mission because we want to provide convenient mobile services to the users. To achieve this there are many bottlenecks of awareness, because the user doesn’t know what he can do on the Internet. Another reason is the price of the smartphone and the data, so a free access will be beneficial to them. Later if they find convenient services and get what they want from the Internet, they will be willing to pay for the benefit that they’ll be getting. The stats are really impressive, we have achieved 100 million daily active users globally last year and there are more than 500 million registered users globally.
Digit: Flipkart and Myntra recently closed down their mobile website, to focus on their mobile app henceforth. Do you think websites will slowly move away from mobile sites towards mobile applications?
Kenny: The discussion of whether applications or websites are dominating the market has been going on for five years. Based on our understanding, the websites and applications play a different role in this industry. Websites are more convenient for users who access services and if you want some information you wouldn’t want to download the application first and then go searching for the information. You would want the services and the information in a short time. So, I think websites can provide more convenient services to the end users. That’s why we also integrate a lot of local content services in UC browser making it convenient for the users. If we talk about the usage of Facebook, I think that most of our users will use the social network on our browser. During our user research, we asked them why do they use UC Browser to access Facebook even though it has a native app and the answer was that they were able to open the pages and load the images faster than the app. We have the technology of cloud computing and data compression, not effectively present on the native app which makes the experience faster. We are focused on the web browsing experience, so it adopts the local network and handsets to make the experience optimal and we do a lot of customisation and optimisation based on that. So if you’re doing this from every single application, you’ll also need to have a huge resource doing that. I don’t think most of the companies have these resources and since we have this technology, we can make it easier for any application. After Facebook found that a lot of users were using their service from our web browser, they were interested for a collaboration with UCWeb on how to make this user experience even better. So we launched a project with Facebook to make the notifications appear on UC Browser and the user can have the same experience in the browser as seen on the Facebook application. We are yet to launch this version, and we are still working on improvements that we can bring to the users. It is very important to us to be working with other products and we are in discussion with some of the other services on how to improve the user experience on the website through our mobile web browser.
Kenny talking about the overwhelming user community of UC Browser
Digit: How is your user community? How often do you get feedbacks on the browser?
Kenny: We have focused a lot on user engagement from our community, especially on Facebook. You will notice that our fans on our Facebook page are very active. We try to communicate with them everyday through different events. For example, on UC Cricket, users can share their predictions on the score of the game or share which team or player they support. They also engage in the community with each other and not just with us.
Digit: UCWeb claims to have 200 patents on mobile web browsing. Any update on a service or feature that we would be seeing in a few months?
Kenny: Because we focus on the technology, we have a lot of patents and this is very important for the company. This is the proof of the technology and the human resource investment that we have done for the users. It is very difficult to answer about any updates because as an Internet company, we update the product every 4-6 weeks. We want to add a lot of features and improve on them in different versions. We have also launched many Beta versions in a small group of users and we keep getting feedback from them very frequently. The users love the open Beta versions since they get to use the latest features of the mobile web browser. We still focus a lot on improving the user experience that includes browsing, viewing videos, download speeds, and for major services like Facebook.
Digit: We already have a lot of users coming in and in the future we’ll have better smartphones as well. What do you think the ideal web browser in the future would be like?
Kenny: I think that it would be a browser with most of the services and content from the web. So UCWeb is trying to build an ecosystem with the local partners in this market to make this happen. It will be able to integrate most of the local content services into the browser so that we can provide a more convenient way to access these services by the users. So, if you have any idea or information that you want to look for, you can reach the content and services seamlessly. That is the ideal way for a mobile web browser because the user doesn’t care about how he gets the content, he only wants to get to the content.