Riding on the breakout success in China, the Guangzhou-based internet company Netease set out for global expansion in 2016.
Netease, the USD 32billion company, which dominates the translation and language learning space at its home base, launched an English-to-local language translator and dictionary app called U-Dictionary (an app similar to its hugely popular Youdao) in March 2016. The app has also struck partnerships with Oxford Dictionary and Collins Dictionary to offer optimum results.
“Netease wants to focus on the education sector in India. We already have a good product in Youdao - a translation app for Chinese users. We thought it would be a good idea to launch something similar in other markets as well. India, being the second biggest market after China with considerable internet users, we knew it would be a good opportunity for us,” said Tushar Singla, Marketing Manager of Asia Pacific region, U-Dictionary.
U-Dictionary racked up over 20 million users across 120 countries by 2017 and won Google Play’s best self-improvement app after nine months into its launch in India. Currently, it’s listed as the number one app on Google Play's “Education” segment.
U-Dictionary allows multilingual translation from a local language to English as well as cross translation from a local language to another. For example, users can write a word or a sentence in Hindi and translate it to Malayalam. It claims around 80% of its users are from India.
According to a report by KPMG, the online learning market in India is set to grow at 42% by 2021 making it a USD 29 million industry. “English learners primarily drive adoption in the online language learning space,” the report said.
“Most of our users come from tier 3 and 4 cities who want to learn English to get small-time jobs or upgrade their skill sets for better opportunities. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and New Delhi account for most of our users,” Singla said.
The company regards Google Translate as its main competition.
“Our app meets the need of early English learners. Google translate doesn’t market their product much, and we are ahead of them,” Singla said.
U-Dictionary set up a local team of six employees at a co-working space in India nine months back. The app has been using influential marketing on digital media platforms such as YouTube and Instagram to push the brand.
Singla said the company partners with YouTube channels with regional language content. “We do a lot of influencer marketing. We pick YouTubers who make local content to plug our products. We work with the storyline and attract a good number of users."
Singla, who joined the Netease team 10 months ago, said the Chinese internet giant — known for its video games — has a history of coming up with features with bonafide usability. “We don’t add features just for the sake of it,” he said.
Kshitij Parashar, Senior Product and Marketing Manager at U-Dictionary, said the app was launched mostly as a digital dictionary.
“We have added a lot of features according to the changing needs of the users. We are excited about the in-app translation feature that allows users to copy any text in an app (like Whatsapp) and U-Dictionary will translate it into English without the user switching between two apps,” Parashar said.
U-Dictionary has added a host of features such as text scanning, speech feature, multi-lingual translation in two years. However, the average time spent on the app is low since people leave the app once they check the meaning or translate words and sentences. Now, the U-Dictionary has added word games and quizzes to improve the bounce rate.
“With the new gaming feature in place, we hope users will start spending more time on our app,” Singla said. However, he did not wish to reveal the average time spent on the app.
U-Dictionary is the first app to go global from Netease’s suite which boasts of products like Youdao Translator, Netease News, Netease Music, Netease Mail, Netease Online Open Courses, etc.
The Nasdaq listed company has strong revenue models for its products in China. However, the primary revenue stream of U-Dictionary is the banner advertisements on the app. U-Dictionary’s Chinese counterpart Youdao has paid features including specific learning courses.
“There is a difference between both the markets. In India, most of the paid things don’t work. So we are thinking first to create an ecosystem of education apps in India and see how we can incorporate the monetisation plan,” Singla said.