Based in the southeastern coastal city of Xiamen, China, Meitu, a technology company, which has an image editing software can do some really unusual photo enhancements. The app can smooth skin, slim down faces, and apply a layer of virtual blush and lipgloss, beautifying photos to a large extent.
The unique feature in the app has helped the company to capture the limelight across the world.
Meitu has over 450 million active users in worldwide, including India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia and Thailand. The company launched BeautyPlus Me on Google Play in India in September 2016.
However, Meitu was launched in the year 2008. It was originally launched as a desktop photo editor that later became one of the flagship mobile apps for the company.
Meitu’s USP was based on its simplicity, which projected itself as a photo editing tool ‘100 times simpler’ than industry standard Adobe Photoshop.
A pivot that changed the game
In May 2013, the company which was till now known for its photo app launched a hardware device “MeituKiss”, an impactful smartphone specializing in selfies.
The company’s new move was to create a competitor for Casio’s selfie cameras. However, MeituKiss was much cheaper (RMB 1700 or Rs 17000) compared to Casio’s selfie cameras (priced above RMB 5000 or Rs 50,000).
Since 2013, Meitu has introduced several selfie smartphones, with its M and V series phones featuring price tags higher than RMB 2000 (Rs 20,000). It recently launched T8 model which is currently being sold for RMB 5000 (Rs 50,000) at pre-order, putting it in the price range of a high-end smartphone.
Now, the company’s 95 per cent of sales come from smartphones. Meitu has sold around 1.34 million smartphones till now, and the proportion of sales revenue from smartphones increased from 59.3 per cent in 2013 to 95.21 per cent for H1 2016.
Riding on the selfie mobile, the company has witnessed an exorbitant revenue growth in the past four years — with the revenue growing from $12.7 million (approx) to $285 million.
Security experts have expressed their concerns towards this data-hungry app which requires way more data from users’ phones than is necessary for a simple photo app and contains some allegedly sketchy code.
Besides requiring permission to access phone camera and photo gallery, Meitu asks for permissions to access information about what other apps users are running, their precise locations, their unique device identifier numbers (IMSIs), call information, carrier information and wifi connections.
Experts cautions that lots of free apps require users to hand over more data than necessary for the app’s core functions. The information could be sold to marketers, or otherwise repurposed to turn a profit.
There are other challenges too
Meitu’s biggest problem is connecting with users and retaining them.
The app’s typical drawbacks include high replaceability and the relative difficulty of retaining users on the platform. A common featured shared by tool apps is that although they have huge user bases, monetization often proves to be a problem.
However, Meitu plans to launch more smartphones for users that crave high quality selfies.
The company is also looking forward to build an ad platform for advertisers. With a primarily female user base, Meitu’s will target advertisers in the realms of cosmetics, luxuries, and fast moving consumer goods.