The mobile phone selling like hotcakes in Africa isn’t Samsung nor Apple, but Tecno, a Shenzhen-based telecommunications company in China. According to open statistics, the company holds more than 40% of market shares in the 6 major countries of North Africa.
Tecno broke into the African market using two mobile innovations: Dual-SIMs and beauty selfie cameras. Liu Junjie, chief marketing officer of Tecno says, “Settlement costs between operators in Africa is very high. Many users require a cellphone that holds more than two SIM cards simultaneously, but can’t afford two phones.” He stated that this specific problem just happened to be the specialty of Chinese manufacturers, and is precisely what Tecno focused on solving. This is the source of inspiration to Tecno’s quad-SIM mobile phone. Furthermore, it is difficult for machines to accurately perform facial recognition on people with darker skin tones, especially in environments with poor lighting, the photos often turn out to be pitch black. To tackle this problem, Tecno established a specialized team, collecting large quantities of photos of the locals, analyzing their facial contour, exposure compensation, imaging effect, etc. to help African consumers take better photos.
Tecno’s success in the African market marks the epitome of international recognition of China’s Internet development, especially on the front of mobile Internet innovation. According to an article in New York Times, “China’s Internet development has evolved from the traditional idea of simple, cheap imitations to one that holds the important role of leading and innovating on a global scale.” The “Chinese Internet model” is being rapidly duplicated in overseas markets.
Overseas Users Praise China’s Internet Applications
Zhang Meili, a foreign Student from the United States (Zhang Meili is her Chinese name), has recently fell in love with a mobile app called Yi+. She says, “This app serves as a virtual AI assistant when I’m streaming videos on Youku, and even watches them with me. What’s more, it automatically recognizes and identifies the celebrities present within the videos and provides their biographies, relevant news, titles that they’ve starred in, comments on Douban Movie, related goods and merchandise etc, and it can even link me directly to the clothes and apparel worn by them on Taobao!”
Innovative applications like Yi+ are being used and praised more and more by overseas users. During a street interview, foreigners living in Shanghai spoke and praised highly of food delivery apps. They said, “When you order hotpot, you’d not only receive the food, the pot to cook in, you’d even get the stove itself delivered to your door! It’s amazing!” You can even add in personal comments in the notes section, asking for a handsome deliveryman to deliver, and really getting a charming lad ringing at your doorbell.
Zhao Yun, a foreigner from Italy (Zhao Yun is his Chinese name), has made a fool of himself when he first came to Beijing. “I had just finished dining with a few Chinese friends, when everyone left for home right after the meal without paying. I thought to myself then, could it be that folks in China do not have to pay for meals? It wasn’t until later on when I learned that someone has already paid for the meal via their mobile phones.”
The HSR (high-speed rail), Alipay, shared bicycles and online shopping, have been regarded as the “four great inventions” of China, that show the power of scientific and technological innovation. Among them, three of them are related to Internet innovation.
The “Chinese Model” is rapidly duplicated overseas
The globalization of China’s Apps is accelerating. According to the data released by Cheetah Lab, whether it’s in developed countries such as the United States, Germany and Canada, or in developing countries such as India, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico and others, Chinese apps have asserted a very important role among them all.
Recently, Russians have begun referring to themselves as Taoholics (lit. having a Taobao complex), a term similar in meaning to the Chinese term duo shou zu (lit. those who profligate to a point where they’d chop their own hands off). This is because Alibaba’s online retail site, AliExpress, has become the most visited e-commerce website in Russia. There, it takes a package 60 days for it to be delivered. That’s why people used to mock the website about buying a thin down jacket and receiving it in the dead of winter; and then once again, buying a thicker down jacket in response, only to receive it when winter is already long gone. Nowadays, AliExpress has established a strategic cooperation with Cainiao Logistics and Russian Post, and designed a brand new logistics route flying directly from Hong Kong to Moscow, and achieved a rapid delivery service of only 4 days. In cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, some goods are shipped through Cainiao Logistics’ overseas warehouse, and can even be delivered on the next day.
In Brazil, by learning and copying the management ideologies and Chinese business model of Baidu’s affiliate company, Nuomi, the Brazilian website Peixe Urbano overtook their rival company Groupon as Brazil’s largest group purchasing site in less than a year’s time. Alex Tabor, president of Peixe Urbano said, “Through Baidu, we introduced China’s innovative business model and technology to Brazil and was able to achieve exponential growth in our sales. Peixe Urbano accounts for 75% of the Brazilian group-purchase market share.”
In the United States, the social live streaming site of Cheetah Mobile (NYSE: CMCM)—Live.me, overtook YouNow in just 3 months. Not only YouNow, Live.me surpassed Periscope as well, achieving a blazing high growth rate of 967% in about 3 months, and a download count that multiplied by about 60 folds. Fu Sheng, CEO of Cheetah Mobile says, “Live broadcast has already prospered in China, but still remains a relatively new concept in America.” He says that Live.me used a presentation style of China’s and is richer in functionality than its competitors.
When Chinese apps were introduced to overseas users, the first to see success were toolkit and camera related ones. Cheetah Mobile’s data management app Clean Master and PinGuo Inc.’s Camera360 are the ideal examples. Nowadays, various apps including games, e-commerce, live broadcast, take-out, taxi, shared bicycles, smart news clients etc., and all kinds of Chinese apps have sprung up in overseas markets.
Technological Innovation and User Experience Are Fundamental
The tremendous surge of power brought along by Internet innovation in China has attracted worldwide attention. The endless streams of innovation makes China a role model for the research of Internet development in other countries.
First, China’s Internet technology and model innovation have made visible breakthroughs. On the front of shared traveling for instance, Brazil’s local travel service provider 99 signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Didi this year in January. The latter will provide technical support, operational experience and business planning for 99. The way Peter Fernandez, CEO of 99 sees it, there are many core technologies present within DiDi that are lacking in 99. He says, “Technologies such as the application of artificial intelligence and large data algorithms, these core technologies are not only costly, they’re time-consuming as well. Thus, cooperating with DiDi has been helpful in solving various problems such as how to assign orders, improve matching efficiency and so on. The algorithm DiDi uses is very advanced. ”
Next, China’s Internet industry pays close attention to user experience and feedback, and can in term provide more personalized products and services. Take for example Li Zhu, founder of Tecno, he says that, “When most brands are still competing for hardware specs, we have long placed our focus on customer experience, which makes our products a favorite among locals.” The same level of success is seen in gaming, although there are many active users in several developing countries, but due to limitations imposed by demanding hardware requirements, it is in fact easier for casual games to break into local markets. This is how Tencent and Giant Interactive Group Inc. quickly won over the locals by specifically offering casual games such as chess and card games.
Furthermore, the Chinese Internet industry has the ability to rapidly learn and duplicate experience on a massive scale. In the field of e-commerce, many countries cooperating in the Belt and Road Initiative are still experiencing problems of commercial infrastructure, high logistics costs, faulty credit systems, and a lack of an optimized payment systems and so on. Alibaba is familiar with all of these problems. All that needs to be done is to simply replay exactly what Alibaba did back in China. As the general manager of AliExpress—Shen Difan—puts it, “It’s precisely because we’re familiar with our past, that’s why we can better predict the future.”
Based on the highly matured consumer Internet and mobile Internet with a massive user base, China’s Internet industry has produced a unique innovation model. With core technologies, business models, data-driven apps, user experience piling up one another, the global Internet industry is now being affected by a strong blowing Chinese wind.
This article originally appeared in Economic Daily and was translated by Pandaily.
Click here to read the original Chinese article.