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Du Lan - Manager of General Management Department China Mobile Internet Business

Volume 4, 2013

On the company’s Internet strategy

“China Mobile is preparing to launch an internet company. Its predecessor is a China Mobile Internet division which has been running for more than 3 years and has started more than 20 businesses.

In the Internet field, our company is also working on a platform called Mobile Market. To date, the application – which is a one-stop platform of sales service and support – has been downloaded more than 1.3 billion times. Recently we also started a new service called Lingxi which is a voice system. In the first week of its launch, the number of Lingxi downloads topped the list of all our services.

A lot of companies are now rushing to build various platforms. For example WeChat, which has amassed 300 million users in less than 2 years, has miraculously emerged and puts great pressure on operators like us. So why are we making Internet products? How do we develop these products? In terms of the process of building up a platform, from the perspective of customer characteristics and business demands, there will be three stages:

The first stage is the launch of a creative idea. Our products are mostly targeted at potential clients or established markets. We have seen other successful cases of this kind of business model, but we have our own advantages. Take our product Lingxi for example, there are other voice recognition software programmes outside of China, but within China it’s a new market, which means we have an edge in doing this domestically. We work with very professional voice recognition developers within China, and we have a huge client base. Now we have already launched Lingxi’s trial version and we also have a version for automobiles.

The second stage should be searching for our target audience among Internet users. The Internet had the potential to be a headache for China Mobile because we are not, by nature, experts in this area. However, we have an immense database – for example our Internet users exceed 450 million – which gives us an advantage in data resources. Our ‘139’ mailbox sends over 1 billion mails per month, Fetion sends more than 3 billion messages per month, and the net flow has exceeded 1 billion GB in 2012. By analysing this data, we can select our target audience.

After we identify the right targets, we follow up with telephone surveys or message questionnaires to assess their needs. Customer input is the most fundamental source of our product design.

The third stage is to develop a basic version based on customers’ needs and make improvements as needed. We also have a laboratory where all products are tested, based on user experience, before being rolled out. We also provide long-term assessment of the quality of our service to customers, and this helps us to constantly improve our platform.”

On facing the WeChat challenge

“This is an issue that the entire Internet industry is focused on right now. For the last several months, the Internet, finance and data departments have been busy analysing the WeChat case. WeChat is really a big blow to operators. Several years ago, we started Fetion; but from the perspective of an operator, it is not in our interest to offer free text or voice messages, that’s why we did not promote Fetion very much.

However, now the obvious trends have told us we need to set up an Internet company. We are walking with two legs – one is tradition, the other is the Internet business. The latter is now too weak, and we wish to strengthen it. I think WeChat is successful because they fully considered customers’ demands and made the platform attractive enough. You can see the evolution of different versions, the customized details in its format or the personalized settings available for the “moments” section. Our biggest challenge so far is how to build up an attractive platform and develop it into an entry point to the Internet. Though our overall number of users has reached 450 million people, we are still looking forward to seeing the users of one individual service reaching over 100 million people.”