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After four years, UC News is likely to wind up Indian operations

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has prompted a few Chinese companies to pull the plug from their non-performing products in India. Bytedance-owned short video sharing app Vigo and Kwai have already announced that they are shutting their operations and the next product to wrap up could be UC News.

UC News is set to shut down its India operations, said two sources aware of the plan. According to them, the winding up of UC News is not surprising at all as the product has not been able to get decent traction in India since its launch four years ago. 

“Despite deep pockets, it has struggled to get decent traction against the competition such as DailyHunt,” said one source who is a former executive of the company, requesting anonymity. “Winding up operations from India is a logical step. Anyway, UC Web has stopped pushing UC News from the second half of 2019,” he added.

A report published in Chinese media Late Post also said that UC News would cease its operations and it will be merged with Ali Health. Notably, Ali Health is being headed by former UCWeb executive Zhu Shunyan, who recently joined Alibaba’s medical service arm.

Alibaba operates four entities under UC Web in India – UC Browser, UC News, VMate and 9Apps. A year after launch, UC News claimed a user base of 80 million in India with a 58% market share. Alibaba also committed to investing Rs 200 crore to push UC News in India and Indonesia.

With more than 500 million global users and over 130 million active users in India, UC News was once a numero uno app in terms of downloads. However, its ranking on Google Play Store slipped out of the top 500 list and currently, there are less than 500,000 users who open UC News every day.

“Lack of focus and absence of coherent strategies have been the main reasons for the failure of UC News. Same was the case with NewsDog,” said the above-mentioned person. NewsDog has also been not betting on its news aggregation business from early last year.

Entrackr had exclusively reported about stagnating user base and download numbers of the Tencent-backed news aggregation app NewsDog. Instead of betting on NewsDog, the company had launched a short video entertainment app YoYo. And even YoYo didn’t work.

Queries sent to Alibaba’s spokesperson on Friday did not elicit a response until the publication of the story. We will update the post as and when they respond.

If UC News shuts local operations, then it would be the third Chinese product to do so in 2020. Early this month, Vigo India and Kwai had ceased their independent ops and to be consolidated with TikTok and UVideo respectively.

Entrackr had exclusively reported both developments (here & here).

Besides its news aggregation business, UCWeb’s short video app VMate has also been struggling in the crowded market dominated by Bytedance. The company has also been downscaling workforce to extend the runway. 

A year ago, Alibaba had announced an investment of $100 million in Vmate.

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