Five Huge Chinese Apps to Know
Shares in Chinese video-sharing app Kuaishou more than tripled in Hong Kong on Friday following a $5.4 billion initial public offering, a resounding start for the company with more than 300 million daily users on its China platforms.
But like many Chinese apps that clock massive revenues, it was largely unknown outside the country before exploding onto the Hong Kong market.
Here are five other apps that gather a huge number of followers in China:
Listed on New York’s Nasdaq in 2018, the video-sharing app has nearly 200 million monthly users, mostly young people who are drawn to its broad range of entertainment, including mobile games and popular live shows. It collected more than three billion yuan ($475 million) in revenue in the third quarter alone last year. The company has a market capitalisation of more than $49 billion and is reportedly getting ready for a secondary listing in Hong Kong that could raise more than $2 billion. But it is increasingly under Beijing’s gaze and was among several platforms called out by regulators last year over online stars wearing “revealing clothing” and performing “vulgar hot dances”. LGBT discussion groups and search terms were removed in an earlier censorship drive.
Ride-hailing app Didi Chuxing has dominated the Chinese market ever since it won a costly turf war against Uber and acquired the American app’s local unit in 2016. Its services are now available in 14 countries, including Russia and Australia. The company — whose fleet included more than 30 million drivers in 2020 — became the centre of a safety scandal in 2018 after two young women were killed by their Didi drivers in separate incidents, prompting the suspension of its “Hitch” carpooling service. But the scandal has not dented support for the service, often the easiest and quickest way to call a driver in crowded Chinese cities, with more than 500 million users.
Meituan is a consumer lifestyle super-app that allows people to order food and book entertainment, health and leisure services, and owns the popular Yelp-like local business directory rating app Dianping. One of the world’s biggest delivery platforms, Meituan has more than 475 million users in China. Shares in the Tencent-backed firm have surged since it listed in Hong Kong in September 2018 — making it China’s third most-valuable tech company after Tencent and Alibaba with a current market value of more than $304 billion. It was given an extra boost this year as millions of Chinese embraced buying fresh food online during lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic. It also received a flood of new workers during the crisis as the job market slowed down and millions turned to precarious delivery jobs in the gig economy.
Founded by an ex-Google engineer-turned-tech-billionaire in 2015, the startup has become one of China’s fastest-growing e-commerce players through its gamified group-buying promotions. The app encourages users to bulk-buy products — especially agricultural produce — at rock-bottom prices. This marks it out from competitors such as Alibaba and JD.com, which appeal to middle-class consumers with higher-quality products. The firm has a huge user base in smaller cities and rural areas. However, it has occasionally come under fire for the low quality of some products, and in recent weeks has faced scrutiny of online users for an alleged overwork culture. The New York-listed firm is worth more than $240 billion, with more than 580 million active buyers, according to figures it released in 2019.
The social media shopping app, which means “little red book”, has little in common with Mao’s famous book of quotes apart from its name. The Pinterest-like software — known in English as RED — originated as a user-generated lifestyle and shopping guide in 2013 and has since attracted more than 300 million mostly millennial users, who are drawn to the pastel-toned interiors, trendy outfits and product reviews shared by influencers. The app, backed by rival tech giants Tencent and Alibaba, features a shopping function that allows brands and influencers to sell products directly to followers. Xiaohongshu’s value exceeded $3 billion after a $300 million investment round including Alibaba and Tencent in 2018, according to another investor, Tiantu Capital.
(Main and featured image: Yusuke Hinata/Nikkei Asia)