Indian users are fond of socializing via selfies and smartphones: APUS Director, Tao Li

India Internet is exploding and Android phones are playing the enabler role. Which translates to great opportunity for Android launchers as well.

We interviewed Tao Li, Founder and Executive Director, APUS Group to deeply understand the ways Mobile Internet consumption story is evolving in India and how is it different from China.

Founded in June 2014, APUS is a global Mobile Internet technology company based in China. Its main product, APUS System, is an enhanced version of user system for Android smart phones, designed to provide the fastest and most convenient access to the Internet.  By 2018, APUS has over 1.4 billion global users in more than 200 countries and regions, with over 25 supported international languages.

With its innovative products, technology and business mode, APUS has been committed to actively enhancing the mobile Internet experience of global users, helping more people embrace a better life.

Here goes our interview with Tao Li, Founder and Executive Director, APUS Group.

  1. How does APUS use AI in its products?

Tao Li:  AI technology is embedded in many APUS products, such as APUS Browser, in which we provide customisation for users through AI. Our AI-driven browser studies data to understand user preferences and then recommends the information and services as per users’ needs. We also use AI technology to obtain user profile information in different regions to avoid cultural taboos caused by religious and cultural differences.

Taking the APUS Browser as an example, based on the analysis of APUS users in India, we have observed the following characteristics:

  • The users of the APUS System in India are aged between 18 and 25 years. They are mainly college students and young careerists.
  • Indian users are very keen to socialise through their smartphones. They use emojis in their instant messaging, and the top app they use is WhatsApp.
  • They love watching and sharing video content and are passionate about the content involving performances of dancing and singing.
  • According to APUS big data, more than 40 per cent of Indian users like to watch videos online, use or browse music-related apps every day.
  • Interestingly, they are fond of taking selfies and eventually share them with their friends through social media, such as Instagram.

Then, we have also developed an AI cutout application with selfie function—the CUTCUT app launched for the Indian Market in early 2019. The app has AI technology embedded in it, which can calculate the shape of the object instantly. In other words, it owns the most mature face recognition and cut out technology with accurate positioning of features, outlines and cuts out images automatically.

CUTCUT has already become hugely popular in India and is highly ranked in the Indian market in the category of photo taking since its debut, according to Google Play with more than 60 million downloads worldwide.

Based on the observation of video-driven demand, APUS has launched another AI related browser – VidMax. It allows its users to download all the trending videos from social media channels, such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in just one click. Also, based on the content being explored by the users, the app collects related videos in the list page of the app based on the insights from AI algorithms working at the backend.

  1. Many companies like Xiaomi are either building their own launcher. How is APUS looking at this trend?

Since its inception in 2014, APUS has acquired more than 1.4 billion users globally in more than 200 countries, and its products have gained huge popularity among global users.

More and more Android phone brands are developing their own desktop systems, but we feel that we have a strong brand positioning that helps us stay ahead and relevant. APUS is a lightweight operating system with the advantage of being the “fastest, smallest, simplest,” which reduces unnecessary memory usage.

APUS has introduced an array of personalised apps, such as APUS Discovery and APUS ARTS, an online art platform extremely beneficial for global youth artists. Besides this, APUS has added features, such as personalised theme background, desktop skin and emoji stickers to the APUS Launcher. All these applications provide a unique mobile experience to its intended audience—the end users. More importantly, APUS is currently building its own ecosystem cooperating with global content partners in disparate spheres, such as music, news, video and service partners in categories, such as gaming, e-commerce, financial payments, entertainment and services.

APUS has collaborated with content service providers, such as InMobi—India’s largest, and the world’s third-largest mobile advertising technology company and Hotstar—the largest online video platform in India—to provide rich and wonderful content recommendations for the users in India.

APUS is gradually building a mobile Internet platform of content operations and business to provide premium content and services for its users. We are trying to ensure that after installing the APUS System, users can enjoy a perfect mobile Internet ecosystem.

  1. What’s the average CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) of APUS? How do you target new users? How much of the user base is organic?

The principal reason why there has been a colossal rise in the number of APUS users is that our products consistently meet the needs of our users in emerging markets. For different levels of growth of Internet-related infrastructure in each country and region, the CAC (customer acquisition cost) varies, and these numbers are much higher in developed countries than in developing countries. For example, the CAC in India is 0.5 dollar per person.

Earlier, APUS used to get its new users mainly via advertising on select digital platforms, but we now are focusing more on the organic growth of our users. And, we are doing this by providing an elevated user experience, superior quality products and services to our existing users. We are also relying on positive word of mouth and the influence of a good reputation. As a result, we have expected a 50 per cent growth rate of organic users to meet a total of 40 per cent natural DAU.

  1. With the launch of Jio phones, new Android Go phones, the Indian market is evolving in different directions. What’s your roadmap for India?

We recognise that the growth of local Internet/Internet infrastructure is crucial. Industry experts consider Reliance Jio as a key driver to the fast-growing trends in the field of mobile Internet in India. With newcomers such as Reliance Jio in hardware development, more development opportunities are being created for our growth as well.

As one of the largest operating system developers in the world, we also want to help more people to enjoy a personalised mobile experience, and, therefore, it will be a win-win situation if we could even enter into a partnership with Jio and similar likeminded parties/companies in India.

From 2015 to 2018, APUS has enjoyed fast growth in India via APUS System to acquire more users and helped them to get access to the Internet.

Since early 2019, APUS has focused on making a strategic move from tools and system development to content-related apps, such as photo-editing, video, leisure, online games and reading. Seeking a local partnership with content providers, we are committed to building an ecosystem, which we call the APUS ecosystem.

After 3-5 years of development in emerging technologies, such as AI and Cloud, we believe the mobile Internet industry in India is going to witness yet another golden period with more and more service-related apps dominating users’ smartphones including e-commerce, O2O and IoT.

  1. How is the Indian market different from Chinese (especially from a consumer behaviour point of view)?

There are three types of applications: tools apps, content-related apps and service-related apps. The three types of apps can label the difference in users’ behaviour in different markets.

The Chinese Internet industry has stepped into a relatively mature stage of service-related apps, thanks to the strong influence from the US Internet industry and the large population of Internet users. In China, we can see an apparent maturity in business models across segments, such as e-commerce, internet finance, mobile payments, O2O, entertainment, tourism, online education and mobile gaming. On the other hand, as far as user behaviour is concerned, the mobile Internet in China has covered all ages with a more diversified, in-depth consumer’s behaviour and impulsive consumption.

Thus, China has experienced the third stage of service-related apps development. Indian users, however, are fond of the second stage of content-related apps. They spend more time reading, taking selfies, watching Bollywood films and playing light but fun games online. Besides reading and playing games, Indian users are more likely to share their creations after photo editing and video shooting through various platforms of social networks, such as Whatsapp, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook. Chinese users are more likely to comment on others’ creation rather than create by themselves.

What’s more, Indian users’ cultural choices create enormous opportunities for the Indian Internet in the content and entertainment field.

As per the KPMG Media and Entertainment Report 2018, the industry inched closer to the Rs. 1,500-billion mark in 2017-18 (FY18). Thanks to a rapidly growing digital user base, the industry clocked a growth of 10.9 per cent in FY18, reaching Rs. 1,436 billion, which had a positive impact on demand across sectors like films, digital advertising, animation and VFX, gaming and music.

The development of service-related apps relies on three aspects of major influence of economic development, the average annual income of citizens, the completion of the banking credit system and a stable transportation network to facilitate the logistic chain to accomplish the full service. Thus, the Indian Internet can be easily described as the largest market with enormous development potential.


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