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How this Chinese app with unpopular content gained 400 Mn users


Kwai, a picture and video sharing social app, is often considered as “vulgar”and “unrefined”, by the Chinese urban class.

This unpopularity is based on the kinds of contents, which are often crude and silly, available on the platform.

The platform caters to very different class and category of people, refraining from celebrities and high lifestyle. Its offering is for ordinary people.

The app, which doesn’t count urban population as target audience, has received huge acceptance in other parts, especially in smaller cities and villages in China.

The growth of the platform in China (not urban) couldn’t be overlooked by investors. In March this year, internet conglomerate Tencent decided to invest $350 million in Kwai.

Kinds of content

Among the popular things on the platform, a user on Kwai, who is a 30-year-old mother from a mountain village in the Southeastern Chinese province of Yunnan. A farmer by profession broadcasts her family’s (herself, husband and son) daily chores — from working the farm to on-site lunch to dinner videos. She and her husband also chat with their friends live streaming through Kwai.

She has over 250,000 followers, who follow her dull life and daily routine; and her videos receive clicks varying from tens of thousands, to hundreds of thousands.

There are several similar videos, which show unusual stuff on the platform where many ordinary non-urban people relate to.

The unpopular popular Kwai

Kwai started as a GIF maker and pivoted to a social video application.

The platform has over 400 million users in total and as many as 40 million daily active users and is believed to be the fourth largest social app after WeChat, Weibo and QQ.

Kwai has built this growth focussing on less-developed places, letting users express themselves, using an algorithm to recommend videos and making the app simple.

According to data from QuestMobile, Kwai registered Daily Active Users of 36.82 million in March 2017(data from other third-parties claim more than 40 million). Four first tier cities saw a total DAU count of around 10 million, according to Su. This means at least 73% of users on Kwai were from outside first-tier cities.

Kwai doesn’t apply celebrity-centered strategies. It avoids tilting resources to users with huge fanbases; skips design hierarchy icons to tag users; unavailability of any ranking of users; employees are forbidden to contact users and doesn’t approach popular live streamers on its platform to sign on as contractors.

The company claims there is no human team interference with the content recommendation system on the application. Instead, it relies only on the algorithm to make personalized recommendations.

The platform claims its USP on its simplicity as well, where there are only three channels on the homepage, “Follow”, “Explore” and “Nearby”. In the upper corner of both sides is a navigation drawer and a little camera icon that enables users to start recording or uploading videos.

The simple design makes it easy for users, who are not smartphone savvy to use the app.

In the market which was already inundated with photos and videos sharing apps, backed and owned by internet conglomerate Tencent, Kwai was able to find a new set of users. This throws open the untapped opportunities available in smaller cities and seems fit to be applicable in India as well.   

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