China’s largest search engine Baidu, number two in the world, is expanding globally. Kaiser Kuo, director international communication, explains in Knowledge CKGSB its global strategy, and why Egypt is high on the list of countries it wants to conquer.
Some time back, Baidu CEO Robin Li declared that he wanted Baidu to be a household name in 50% of the world’s markets. The company has already started taking baby steps to realize this goal. According to Kaiser Kuo, Director of International Communications at Baidu, “Today we are the number two search engine in the world. The core technology for searches in a way can be applied (elsewhere), so there’s some scale that you can leverage from existing platforms.” To go global, Baidu is looking at emerging markets which are underserved by the dominant players. These markets are still evolving from an internet user perspective.
Baidu believes that having roots in China will help as it globalizes. “In China we really are in two markets at the same time,” says Kuo. “We have the developed world market in these first-tier cities and we are very much in the mainstream of technological developments globally. We also serve very much a developing world market already with a relatively unsophisticated user base with relatively unsophisticated consumers. So we’ve gotten really good at developing technologies and products that are appropriate for those sorts of markets.”
So far Baidu has chosen to dip its toes in Japan, Egypt, Vietnam, Thailand and Brazil (and has plans for other markets as well). So Baidu went in with Japanese language search in Japan, it took a Portugese language version of Hao123 (a directory of weblinks) to Brazil (and a similar local-language version of the same site in Thailand), and an Arabic version of Baidu Knows in Egypt. “These products were chosen in part because of their ability to help us understand the terrain and to connect us with other players,” says Kuo.
The choice of countries is somewhat surprising. Take Egypt for instance, which doesn’t rate very high on many companies’ globalization plans. But Baidu has thought this through. “Egyptian Arabic has now become sort of standard from the Maghreb all the way through to Iraq, and Egypt is the culturally dominant country in the Middle East. It has the highest output of literature, film and so forth. There’s a huge group of very well trained engineers in Egypt,” says Kuo. “It makes the most sense from a lot of perspectives.”
Baidu’s strategy is simple: go where English is not the dominant language, build capabilities in that market—and then expand.
The China Weekly Hangout discussed the global aspirations of China’s internet companies with Steven Millward of Tech in China on November 15, 2012.
This week, on Thursday 14 March, the China Weekly Hangout will focus on the media in Hong Kong. In the 1990s they were a beacon of hope, and Hong Kong one of few global news capitals. With Paul Fox of the HKU we will discuss the state of Hong Kong media. You can read our announcement here, or directly register at our event page.
- Baidu’s Focus: emerging markets – Kaiser Kuo (chinaspeakersbureau.info)
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- China’s Baidu Reaches Out to World, Makes Developer Tools Available in English (techinasia.com)
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