Chinese internet companies help Indian women achieve economic independence and improve social status

By Zhang Dan Source:Global Times Published: 2018/10/10 18:48:41

Chinese company UCWeb offers Indian female writers a chance to work after they give birth, a rare opportunity in that country

These writers are creating content designed to empower women

Many Chinese content creation companies are striving to succeed in the Indian market

Photo: VCG

An accident unexpectedly brought Pratibha Saraswat, a 30-year-old living in Delhi, a new job opportunity.

The doctor advised her to stay in bed for at least two months, but this was quite a challenge for a veteran journalist of almost 10 years who enjoyed traveling to cover stories in India.

At that moment, her husband told her about a Chinese company that was paying local writers and encouraged her to give it a try. Luckily, she did.

"Writing for UCWeb not only helps me attain financial independence, but also allows me to spend more time with family and my child, so that I can achieve work-life balance," Saraswat said.

She now writes about cricket in India and boasts 650,000 followers under the We Media program, run by UCWeb, a Chinese mobile browser firm focusing on digital content aggregation and distribution in India. The company was acquired by Alibaba, China's e-commerce giant, in 2014.

The income depends on page views of the articles, hence, changes every month. Saraswat usually works for only one to two hours every day, but if it's cricket season, she keeps working for a whole day.

"When I worked for a traditional news organization, I could read the comments under my articles, but I did not have the right or freedom to reply. Now, since I have my own account, I can communicate with my followers directly and reply to their comments," she said, praising some suggestions in the comments are very constructive.

The female labor force participation in India fell from just over 37 percent in 2004 to 29 percent in 2009, according to the International Labor Organization. It is harder for its women to find work in India after giving birth.

Some Chinese companies are trying to provide a platform to empower Indian women like Saraswat to realize their value and gain economic independence after marriage.

Empowering women

Saraswat is one of the 65,000 content producers on the platform. Professors, workers and people from all walks of life can produce their own content.

UCWeb's main business has traditionally been its mobile browser. It is now transforming from a tool-oriented company to a content-based one.

Unexpectedly, this move has helped some Indian women to achieve economic independence and improve their social status.

On the UCWeb News app, there is a channel called "She." Unlike other popular female channels which focus on beauty tips and relationships, this channel calls for women's empowerment. For example, it shows health tips for all working women and offers motivational quotes by strong women who prove everything is possible.

Kavita Himthani is a content operator of the channel "She." The motivation to start this channel came from a user survey which found there is no big difference in terms of the content both male users and female users are looking at on the app.

"I have observed that Indian women have no platform which gives them knowledge about the topics that impact them… but I want to give them information, which is more than the cliché topics, so when they sit at the dinner table with men, they can participate in the discussion about taxes, politics and sports etc," Himthani told the Global Times.

Now, most of the comments are "thank you" notes from women expressing their gratitude for the information.

Inset: An Indian employee works at the UCWeb New Delhi office in September. Photo: Courtesy of UCWeb

Himthani said they even have many male users reading their articles, which is great because that shows more understanding from males toward females.

In addition to the channel, her team has also launched the "Shero" campaign and the "She deserves to know" campaign, introducing inspiring stories about many common but brave women to readers. For instance, they interviewed a female cancer survivor who has adopted a little girl, and a plus-sized woman who chooses not to lose weight and participated in a beauty contest.

Both Saraswat and Himthani agree their jobs have empowered themselves.

"I have a child who is only five-months old. Usually for Indian women, they cannot go back to work after giving birth. Hence, they have to rely on their husbands or family economically," Saraswat said. Her job at UCWeb helps her achieve financial independence.

Himthani takes the same view. She said that through Chinese culture and working habits she has learned how to give 100 percent to anything that she does and at any time of the day. Being financially independent has also added a lot of compassion and warmth in her personality.

"I'd say I am a better professional and a better human being now," Himthani said.

Show their talent

UCWeb is not the only Chinese company developing a content business in India. Many other players wish to grab a slice of the pie.

As of February, Chinese video-sharing app Tik Tok has attracted 15 million registered users in India, online video analytics and marketing company Vidooly reported in August. Many young content creators produce short videos, usually within 15 seconds, becoming successful social media personalities.

Unlike Instagram and Facebook, Tik Tok aims to attract a specific sub population: young females between the ages of 13 to 24, according to Vidooly.

The top three Tik Tok users in India are all females. For example, the most popular one, Aashika Bhatia, has 4.88 million followers on the app.

Targeting content creators and new users, Tik Tok serves as a platform that allows them to show their talents to the Indian public. Not does the platform bring fun and inspire creativity, it  also tries to get local people involved on special days to make a change on their life.

For instance, in August, the app marked India's 72nd Independence Day. Tik Tok users showed their patriotism by posting videos with filters and trending hashtags on the app. Prominent Tik Tok users and leading Bollywood celebrities, such as Shahid Kapoor, Tiger Shroff and Shraddha Kapoor all posted content to celebrate the spirit of patriotism.

A huge market

According to the government of India, the number of people under 25 years old accounts for 53.7 percent of the population of the country. There is no doubt these people are tech savvy and will become loyal users of the internet. The statistics portal Statista said India is the second largest online market with over 460 million internet users, ranked only behind China.

China is home to many flourishing internet companies, and some hope to test the water in India.

However, the content market in India is not as developed as in China. Although there are original videos for the Indian market on Youtube, original articles and short videos are not popular in the country.

China's Cheetah Mobile bought News Republic in November 2017, starting the news aggregator competition in the Indian market. China's APUS Group and News Dog also joined the competition.

The same phenomenon is not only seen in the content area, but also in live streaming. In 2017, the only three players who did live streaming in India all came from China: BIGO LIVE, Mi Live and

However, China's monopoly in the live streaming area doesn't mean the firms are successful. Liu Wei, in charge of the Indian market at BIGO LIVE, said the Indian market didn't have a ready-made pool of online celebrities. Liu said it may take two to three more years to see profits, Chinese technology news portal 36Kr reported in February.

How these Chinese companies can bring a change to the local culture requires time to test. Xi Yu, general manager of UCWeb's International Business Department India office, told the Global Times that over 80 percent of their employees are local people. They approve of the company's working culture and feel a strong sense of belonging.

"We are promoting a 'double-E' culture - enabling and empowering," he said. "We hope the local employees can become the mainstay of our business development," he said.


Newspaper headline: Web of support

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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