National optic fiber network will take broadband to 6 lakh villages; Kenny Ye, UCWeb India

According to the latest report by IAMAI-IMRB, India will surpass the US to attain 402 mn Internet users by end of 2015, becoming the second largest Internet user base in the world. It is no surprise that this growth coincides with the rise in mobile Internet user base. To capture this market, UCWeb, the maker behind the UC Browser, has announced the launch of UC Browser 10.7 for Android—giving users complete freedom to personalize the way they discover and access web content. Kenny Ye, Managing Director of UCWeb, India divulged Dataquest about his company’s focus areas in the wake of increasing Internet penetration. Excerpts

Please shed some light on the UC Browser 10.7 and how it will enhance the user experience?

In September, UCWeb released its biggest update for Android users—UC Browser 10.7.The latest version of UC Browser comes with a customizable homepage with cards like UI navigation. Some of the top features of UC Browser 10.7 are:

„„Navigation Page: It provides quick access to all kinds of web content and services.
„„Quick Access Cards: The browser allows you to rearrange the cards, such as headlines, top sites,jokes, cricket matches, top free apps, opinions, trending videos, shopping, and much more. Users can also pin card their favourite topics on the top and get the content immediately after they open the browser.
„ Personalization and Themes: Unlike any other mobile browser in the market, UC Browser 10.7 for Android is the first of its kind to give its users complete freedom to personalize the way they discover and access web content. Users can choose from plenty themes available at theme zone in settings or they can choose one from the photo gallery.
„„ Faster Browsing: Upto 20% faster browsing through cloud acceleration and data compression.
„„ Less Data Usage: Save on data cost with data compression technology.
„„ Local Content: Quick and easy navigation to the most popular local news and videos.
„„ Smart Downloading: The browser has an advanced integrated download manager. Users can also pause downloads and resume later. There is an option to choose downloadable sources from the web page. It also allows the download to continue even after you exit the browser. In case the download is interrupted due to bad network or any other issue, it resumes automatically once the network is restored.
„„Night Mode: Changes the entire look of the browser to make it easier for your eyes at night. It changes the black icons on a white background to grey icons on a black background which reduces the amount of hard light hitting your eyes.
„„Control Videos with Gestures: The browser also gives users an ability to watch favourite videos from popular video streaming services. There is also support for gesture control for volume, brightness, and progress control.
„„ Language Support: The browser can support a number of languages including Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam, in several fonts.
„„ Facebook Acceleration: Upto 130% faster speed through Facebook page optimization and acceleration.

Recently, UC Browser registered over 50% marketshare in mobile browser in India. What all localization techniques have worked for India market?

UC Browser is India’s #1 third-party mobile browser with over 54% marketshare. As of today, every second page viewed on the mobile in India is generated through UC Browser. It has over 16% monthly page view marketshare, according to StatCounter. We have customized our browser and added features to suit the needs of an Indian user.

In regions with low connectivity, our data compression feature is of great help. We also have offline video and reading features available for people who want to save data charge and have sporadic Internet connection. We have added local language support for over 10 Indian languages, including Hindi. We have also been working closely with Facebook to provide faster access to them than any other player. Our tests show that UC Browser is 30%-65% faster than its competitors in terms of time consumed to load Facebook pages and also, UC Browser users are able to receive real-time Facebook notifications on the browser.

This is the first time Facebook has teamed up with a mobile browser to allow real-time notifications outside of its native app. We also customize our browser based on popular events such as cricket and football. For cricket related events, we have launched an all-in-one cricket application ‘UC-Cricket’. The application provides complete and up-to-date information including ball-by-ball updates, live scores, previews, commentaries, interviews, stats, photos, videos and more.

Recently, we announced the appointment of cricketer Yuvraj Singh as a product specialist and brand ambassador for UC Browser to reach out to new users and engage with our highly-active user base.

Further, we have teamed up with local content service providers to provide numerous Bollywood movies with copyrights to Indian users. Additionally, users can also check their PNR status directly from UC Browser. UC Browser also connects users with service providers. India users can conveniently book flight tickets and hotels, recharge their mobile, check train status, order food, etc, on UC Browser. Mobile Internet is not only about content, but also means services—services that can make life easier for everyone. We also try and reach out to users in newer markets by way of roadshows and more.

 

What are the biggest challenges that global players face in India?

Let’s talk about what makes Indian market unique and how can Internet companies facilitate the imminent growth. The non-Internet user population in India is overwhelmingly rural and a high proportion is illiterate and female. This is starkly different from the population that has embraced the Internet so far—predominantly urban, higher income, and literate. Removing the Internet barriers for the uninitiated would entail addressing the following—lack of digital and language literacy; lack of Internet coverage and rural infrastructure; low income along with poor purchasing power; and most importantly, lack of awareness of the Internet and its relevance. There is a tremendous opportunity to bring new Internet users online.

Also, India is a mobile-first market. Many first time users are skipping the PC and fixed-Internet connections to go online on their mobiles. This is especially the case in lower-tier cities and rural areas. Mobile Internet connections exceed fixed-broadband connections by three to one. Expansion of mobile network coverage, higher mobile Internet adoption, shrinking mobile device and data costs, a growing middle class, and increasing utility of the Internet are key contributors.

So, there is no doubt that old and new Internet users will come on a mobile device—be it a smartphone or a tablet. Yet, unlike users in developed markets, many Indian users are new in the mobile world without knowing how to discover content, services, and apps. India’s user profile is concentrated with 80% in the age bracket of 25 years and younger. Most Internet users in India continue to be male.

Also, users in non-metros face issues of weak connectivity and slow browsing speeds. An average Indian user wants to save cost on data browsing and downloading. India’s mobile app developer community of a little over 2 mn—expected to increase to 3 mn by 2017—also makes it the largest base of mobile app developers in the world (KPMG Report, March 2015). The affordability of smartphones is one of the factors behind the popularity of smartphones.

However, budget phones with limited functionality prevent users from installing a lot of apps. UC Browser is an all-in-one mobile browser where users can access to all kinds of web content and services with very few clicks. Therefore, it helps boost digital literacy.

 

What are the emerging trends in mobile browsing space and the mobile app industry?

Businesses that make mobile a central part of their strategy will benefit from the opportunity to engage the new constantly connected consumer. The app market is on a rapid rise, as the smartphone gets more and more powerful and users are keen to use more apps.

But the mobile browser is here to stay and thrive. Even with the rising popularity, apps continue to face accessibility and compatibility concerns along with issues of cost-effectiveness versus a mobile browser. Apps require you to download and install it from an app marketplace before the content or application can be viewed. Also apps need multiple versions for different platforms. It is also easy to update content on a mobile site versus an app .

There are more than 3 bn Android and iOS apps out there. Less than 30,000 have seen more than one million download each. Almost 90% of the apps are deleted within one week of being installed! A smartphone user has no more than 20 apps, and most of them are the popular ones or others that a user needs every day or at least few times a week.

Our study shows that over 30% Indians have less than 10 apps installed on their mobile phones. Almost 70% users install no more than 20 apps on their phones. Even within apps, social networking and games remain the most popular. This leaves out a whole gamut of information and services that people access on the browser. Over the past years, we have seen a rapid growth in eCommerce traffic on our app. For instance, the numbers of users who visit Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal via UC Browser in the month leading up to Diwali 2015 increased over 75% compared with last year. Indians are increasingly embracing shopping on the go, splashing out on various items through mobile shopping during festive sales.

Do you think free Wi-Fi concept will increase Internet penetration in India?

The huge potential of Internet connectivity is yet to be tapped in India. Prime Minister Modi has an ambitious and promising target for Digital India. Offering free Wi-Fi is an endeavor to increase Internet penetration in the country.

India’s broadband usage has gone up by 63% but it needs further acceleration. The aggressive expansion of the National Optic Fiber network will take broadband to 6 lakh villages. The government has also promised to roll out free Wi-Fi Internet connections in 2,500 cities and towns across the country. If implemented soon and in spirit, the move has a potential to make India a digitally empowered society and a knowledge economy. With a target to make 5.25 mn people digitally literate by 2016, India’s National Digital Literacy Mission will be the real game changer. It has the potential to make development truly inclusive.

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