After running a pilot at the start of the year, Alibaba Group’s UCWeb has rolled out its mobile marketing platform UC Ads in India. This is the group’s fourth offering in India after UC Browser, UC News and 9Apps. The country is the biggest overseas market for UC and employs 180 people. Indonesia and Russia are other priority markets for the company.
We caught up with Kenny Ye, GM, overseas business, Alibaba Mobile Business Group, who was in India last week for this launch, to learn more about the offering and an update on UCWeb’s journey in the country.
UCWeb had entered India in 2012 through UC Browser which currently occupies top spot among mobile browsers in the country. While the company is also present on PC, that’s not the focus says Ye as the user base is pretty low compared to mobile.
On how the market has developed in the last five years since UC’s entry to India, Ye said, “No one can ignore mobile in India right now. The country has moved from feature phones to smart phones and that has been a big change over the past five years.”
And Ye believes that this growth will only continue for the next three years.“We still think that in the next three years mobile internet users will grow at a very high rate in this market. But more importantly, we’ll see more businesses that depend on mobile. We are seeing that already and it will only grow,” said Ye.
Ye is pretty confident of the offering following a ‘successful’ campaign for OnePlus and other e-commerce portals during the pilot.
He explains the offering: “Through this we look to provide a mobile marketing platform with intelligent content marketing solutions. For any ad system, there needs to be a technology to serve the right ad at the right moment to the right audience. And we have that.”
He informs that the technology being used is similar to that of UC News. “We use big data for personalised content. So that means we have the technology and data for proper advertisements. Since we are the content distribution platform we can integrate the advertisement with the content. We’ll have content related to the marketing campaign,” said Ye.
On how UC Ads are different from the likes of Google and Facebook, he explained, “The technology is totally different. We are the platform. Our app matches, covers the scenario of the users and whatever they are browsing or the apps they are downloading.”
He added, “It’s the way the ads will be related to content. Because of the UC News platform, the user will be consuming content similar to the ads and the scenario is different from Google.”
Ad blockers have been gaining currency and a USP of UC’s browser over the years has been that it came with a pre-loaded ad blocker. Ye says that with the launch of its ads platform, that will not change and the end user can still decide to keep the ad blocker on or off.
He explains, “We are also working with an organisation on how to optimise the ads for the end users. The user experience will be kept in mind. We don’t want to annoy the users. We have a similar policy to Facebook’s one ad per view. We have the technology to analyse whether users like this ad or not, or whether they don’t like ads at all. So we can decide different ad servings to different users.”
One issue that UC Ads won’t be able to solve at the time of launch is those re-targetted ads from travel portals that push offers, often of those places that have been already visited by the consumer. He says, “This is also related to the advertiser. The platform doesn’t know whether you have gone ahead with the booking or not. If the signal is not given to the ad platform, it will not know. I think that with digital technology improving, this should be solved soon.”
There were media reports in August against UC Browser sending mobile data of its users in India to a server in China. Reports suggested that the browser could be banned in India. But Ye rubbished those suggestions as he stated, “It was a rumour. We are very concerned about the users and we follow local regulations. We didn’t even get an official letter from the government and the media reports died a natural death.”