UC News, a news aggregation app released by Alibaba’s subsidiary UCWeb in 2016 for the Indian market, is reportedly close to shutting down amid slowing growth, at the same time as another product in the UC family—short video app VMate—tightens its budget, Chinese media outlet Latepost reported on Tuesday, citing company insiders.
According to the report, the developer announced internally that the news app, which claims on its Google Play page to have more than 50 million users and provides content in 15 languages, will soon stop operation. The team will be merged with Ali Health, Alibaba’s medical service arm, where former UCWeb exec Zhu Shunyan serves as CEO and chairman.
VMate, Alibaba’s attempt to create an “Indian version of Kuaishou,” will continue its development, but with fewer resources and personnel.
The spokesman at Alibaba replied to local media that Alibaba’s businesses are making fresh plans for the new fiscal year. “The premise—expand the company’s presence in overseas markets—has not changed, and detailed strategies are in works,” the company said in its response.
Last year, India had more Google Play store downloads than any other country, but the average revenue per app store user was RMB 8.6 (USD 1.21). By comparison, that figure was RMB 1,568 (USD 220.59) for the US, the Latepost report said, suggesting UC News struggled to generate profit, which is mainly driven by ad revenue.
UCWeb, best known for its popular mobile browser UC Browser, was acquired by Alibaba in 2014 and is now part of the e-commerce giant’s digital media and entertainment group, which also owns video streaming site Youku.
UC Browser, with over 130 million users, was the runner-up in the Indian mobile browser market with a 23% share, only behind Google Chrome, a TechCrunch article from September wrote, citing data from third-party analytics firm StatCounter. But Sensor Tower’s data shows that its growth has been slowing down.
In the first quarter of 2019, UC Browser downloads declined 34% year-on-year.
During an interview with the Economic Times last July, Huaiyuan Yang, vice president of UCWeb Global Business said that “UC is transforming from a browser tool to a content platform,” as UC Browser channels its users to other UC apps.
UC News is among UCWeb’s efforts to provide more content to Indian users, but its competitors are not only western giants Twitter and Facebook, but also TikTok. Global downloads of TikTok and Douyin crossed two billion in April, driven by the former’s popularity in India, which alone accounted for almost a third of total downloads, KrASIA wrote.