India isn’t just a testbed for SHAREit to find and perfect a new business model, but also the start of the company’s globalisation dreams.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh.
SHAREit, a Chinese social app which allows users to exchange files without an internet connection, is looking to execute the second phase of its global growth strategy in India.
The company has over 330 million users in India, largely from Tier-II and Tier-III cities.
SHAREit now wants to expand and become a content delivery network to rival Google and Facebook. Once the firm perfects the model, it says it will export this to its other large markets such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Latin America etc.
“In small town India, when a customer purchases a smartphone from a shop, the shopkeeper asks them to install SHAREit to transfer some good movies or music or interesting apps. So basically that was the main reason we could grow and most of our user base is in emerging market,” says Jason Wang, managing director at SHAREit India.
The need to move on from being a simple app to share files and other content to being a content network isn’t just to improve monetisation. With improving connectivity across the country due to massive investments being made by telecom service providers, SHAREit understands its service will become redundant in a few years.
While Facebook and Google already have a stronghold in India when it comes to content delivery, SHAREit believes the two companies are still largely focused on the urban elite. It sees very few services tapping its current base of users who are largely in smaller towns or lower income groups living in large metros.
“Even if you see the kind of content on YouTube, it’s largely made for the urban elite. Apart from Bollywood, there are so many things that people want to see, and the need for that is made even more strong because of how diverse India is. Someone in a small town in Andhra Pradesh will want something completely different from someone in Uttar Pradesh,” adds Wang.
For its transition to the network space, SHAREit is largely looking at partnerships with content creators in India. These could range from individuals making videos for people in their town, to regional film industries using SHAREit to take their movies to more individuals and fight piracy.
The scope for such a network doesn’t just end at video and music. SHAREit even wants fin-tech companies that are building products such as insurance, loans for individuals outside of large metros, to e-commerce firms that are trying to tap users in smaller towns which lack logistic networks.
“We have achieved good success when it comes to penetration, that was phase one. The second step is to convert this large user base we have, I wouldn’t say into a paid customer but into a more valuable customer. We have similar penetration to WhatsApp and Facebook in India, but when it comes to functionality, we still have a lot to learn,” says Wang.
India isn’t just a testbed for SHAREit to find and perfect a new business model, but also the start of the company’s globalisation dreams. From moving out of China and setting up its headquarters in Singapore, SHAREit wants to turn itself into a multi-billion dollar empire that serves the needs of the five-billion people who will come online in the next few years.
Considering that most of these new users will come from emerging markets, the company says it cannot put in place a static plan for growth.
Wang says SHAREit's growth plans have to be dynamic, something that will make it a lot more nimble than giants such as Google and Facebook who are vying to connect the same user base.
While Facebook is deploying significant capital in trying to connect new users through initiatives such as Internet.org, Google has setup a new unit called Next Billion Users or NBU to build services for the unconnected or people who have very recently gained access to the Internet.
While it will not be easy for SHAREit to compete with the giants when it comes to investment, it says playing smarter and looking at organic growth will be its main strategies. While not revealing how much the company has earmarked for executing its India strategy, Wang says investing $10 million into India will be fairly easy, investing $100 million will be hard but is very possible.