The flip side of Chinese app expansion

By Mia He Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/6 18:33:39

Illustrations: Xia Qing/GT

Shopping in Tokyo is becoming mundane, not because I go there often, but due to the ubiquitous blue and green stickers affixed to the glass doors of every major shopping mall that read, "We accept Alipay and WeChat Pay."

In China, it's already old hat to pay bills and make hotel reservations using a mobile phone. But companies behind such novel technologies are pushing to expand beyond their home turf to ensure such innovation doesn't go the way of the dinosaurs.

Alibaba and Tencent, two Chinese Internet titans whose businesses span commerce, payment and entertainment services, are making forays overseas as they shrug off the "copycat" stereotype borne by most Chinese tech firms.

Just two weeks ago, Alipay announced a partnership with lifestyle recommendations service Yelp to offer localized content and payment options in four cities in the US.

The announcement was followed by a partnership with beverage chain Starbucks Malaysia in which Chinese shoppers can discover a nearby coffee shop via the Alipay app and buy a beverage in yuan.

WeChat is following suit. Its parent company Tencent has applied for a license in Malaysia to offer local payment services via the app. If approved, the license would allow local users to link their local bank accounts to WeChat Pay and pay in Malaysian ringgit. We know the duopoly has extended beyond China's borders. Both apps are already available in over a dozen countries. But the latest developments represent a deeper level of cooperation.

The apps also serve as a blueprint for what mobile platforms services can achieve with the right innovation. For instance, Alipay's model is being picked up by the likes of Paytm, India's largest e-wallet provider. The company's CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma said the digital service helps eliminate fake banknotes and curb the black economy in the country. It also plans to introduce an Internet bank, a money market fund and a credit scoring system similar to the architecture of Alipay.

Chinese startups are also racing to export their business models in a bid to transform the notion of "copy to China" to "kaobei (copy) from China."

While bike-sharing is no rarity elsewhere in the world, the Chinese version gives wheels to the concept of customers being able to find a free bike anywhere in the city via GPS and leave them for someone else to use when they get to their destination.

Neither Ofo nor Mobike is content with fighting for supremacy just inside China. Apart from Singapore and Fukuoka in Japan, Mobike has recently become available in London. Meanwhile, in the past month, Ofo has added its yellow fleet to a long list of cities from Oxford in the UK to Seattle in the US and Vienna in Austria as the firm charts an expansive course to seize market opportunities derived from the trove of data generated by users.

With more Chinese services being launched overseas, I would definitely feel more at home when I fly off to the West. On the flipside, it's now perhaps harder to get excited when traveling abroad.

This article was published on the Global Times Metropolitan section Two Cents page, a space for reader submissions, including opinion, humor and satire. The ideas expressed are those of the author alone, and do not represent the position of the Global Times.


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