Chinese internet firm Alibaba Group’s subsidiary UC Web has suspended operations in India and has laid off almost 90% of its 350-strong workforce in the country, said three people aware of the development.

Several employees in associate, managerial and entry-level positions have been informed verbally over video-conferencing about the layoffs. All employees were given a minimum of 30 days’ notice, said one of the people cited above, requesting anonymity.

On 29 June, India banned 59 Chinese apps including TikTok, Helo, UC Browser, UC News, and WeChat, in the backdrop of rising tension with its northern neighbour along the border in Ladakh. Among the banned apps, TikTok was the most popular with over 200 million actives users in the country.

A UCWeb spokesperson on Thursday told Mint that it has “complied with the government’s recent directive concerning 59 apps and stopped the service.”

The firm declined to respond to additional queries by Mint.

Operational since 2009 in India, UCWeb operates a mobile browser–UC Browser–and a news aggregation service, UC News.

A Reuters report on Thursday said India employees working at Alibaba-owned video-blogging platform Vmate were also laid off according to an internal letter dated 15 July.

Alibaba-owned UC browser has over 430 million active users globally, of which 130 million are in India. According to StatCounter, a web analytics firm, UC Browser was the second leading mobile browser in India, with a 10% market share after Google Chrome, as of June.

Most of the Chinese apps banned by India had large active user bases and together accounted for 5% of total installs from Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store during April-June at 330 million new installs, Mint reported on July 2nd.

Prior to the ban, Chinese internet firms had publicly detailed investment plans and their business strategies in India. ByteDance, which owns TikTok and Helo, had said it plans to invest up to $1 billion in India. UC Web had also detailed its plans to launch a fully-owned e-commerce business in India back in September 2019. It also had plans to launch online movie ticketing as well at that time.

News Source: Livemint


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