As UCWeb tries to expand its frontiers and take the African mobile browser market from Opera, the Alibaba owned company recently launched its UC Browser officially in Kenya. Here is an exclusive interview with Kenny Ye who is a director at the International Business Department of UCWeb.
Individuals on the African Continent have found a new reliance on technology for daily living. Although the continent has lagged behind in ICT growth, research has shown that Africa has experienced the fastest growth in Internet penetration in the World. It was estimated in 2014 that about 56% of the continent’s population owned a mobile phone, but only 10% of the population were internet users as at 2015.
The statistics has led to the conclusion that Africa is a mobile technology growth market despite the uncertainty and unpredictability of its economy – a venture that Alibaba seeks to pursue.
What are the mobile trends in Kenya that you are eyeing?
Kenya is seen as a lucrative market based on these stats: the country has a total of 37.8 million subscribers, 40% of whom are browsing on smartphones. The number of internet users is growing at an impressive rate, with about 21.6 million users recorded as per the Q2 of the 2015-2016 financial year.
What specific feature will be available for the Kenyan market?
UC Browser offers unique features in many ways. We were the first mobile browser to introduce cloud computing technology back in the year 2004. With more people accessing internet on their mobile phones, we have developed an easy-to-use navigation. And in Kenyan market, we focus on the 3 following features after analyzing our database of Kenyan users:
Fast: By detecting the type of internet connection you have, the device you are using, and what webpage you are browsing, UC Browser fetches the most suitable version of the webpage for you; Up to 130% faster speed through Facebook page optimization and acceleration
All in one: Quick and easy navigation to the most popular local and global websites and news, all in the home page of UC Browser
Download: 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
What things are you betting will drive the use of the browser in Kenya?
In Kenya, many users access internet for the first time via budge phones. Mobile browser, as a gateway to mobile internet, helps user navigate through different websites and access many kinds of contents without the need of installing a lot of apps which consume a lot of RAM.
And UC Browser’s strength is its signature cloud-enabled browsing technology that can compress data by up to 60%, ability to compress page to provide faster page loading & data cost saving. Meanwhile we provide localized content, catering to Kenyan market. And we are seeking to have more and more deep localization and strong synergistic partnerships with local content providers has boosted downloads and engagement with the browser.
What localization techniques will you bring to the Kenyan market?
Facebook Acceleration Mode: By leveraging such cloud acceleration technology, UC Browser lets you do more on Facebook with up to 60% faster Facebook load time. Now, you can enjoy the best and fastest possible Facebook experience on mobile with UC Browser for Android.
Compatible with African languages: Our tech team is working on the language issue in order that our users can input and read in their own local languages which is pioneering in Africa compared to other mobile browser. For example in Ethiopia, We optimize UC Browser to load the websites in Amharic in a better way.
What do you foresee as roadblocks in Kenya?
According to the market research, Kenya goes with an untapped potential Internet situation comparing its mobile Internet users and penetration rate with that of South Africa and Nigeria. It refers to a limited market capacity to some degree.
Moreover, the brand awareness of UC Browser is not even near that we expect, greater brand impression is an urgent demand now.
Share statistics about the Kenyan market – use of Facebook, Twitter, downloads etc.
According to 2015 World Development Indicators, there are 32.8 millions of mobile users in Kenya, and 26.6% of them use smartphone and 79% of them use Android system.
Communication software accounts for 17% of the Top 100 apps in GooglePlay Kenya, and Facebook is the most popular one where there are 4.5 million active users monthly.
What do you think will be UC Browser’s success in Kenya?
We are growing very fast in Africa and worldwide, and currently we have not set any targets for African 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 recruitment 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.
Last but not least, we aim to help people in developing countries to get connected, to bridge the digital divide. Our commitment is to provide better mobile internet services to at least half of the world’s population.
Whom do you consider your biggest competitors in Kenya?
A short background of Kenny Ye
Kenny Ye is a director at the International Business Department of UCWeb who’s charged with taking care of overall business and growth of the company in global emerging markets. Ye has extensive experience in technology consultancy and business development in the telecommunication and mobile internet industries through his previous work with top operators and Internet companies. Ye is also highly experienced in doing business in emerging markets. Prior to joining UCWeb, Ye worked at Huawei as Solutions Manager. Ye received his Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from China’s prestigious Zhejiang University in 2005.