Alibaba founder and former CEO Jack Ma has joined UCWeb‘s board of directors as the company focuses on building mobile ecosystems in India and other emerging markets. UC Browser recently surpassed Opera as the top mobile browser in India, but only by a thin margin, and UCWeb has said it plans to build relationships in different verticals in order to increase its foothold.
Guangzhou-based UCWeb, which claims 400 million users worldwide, grabbed the top spot among mobile browsers in India in July, according to StatCounter. UC Browser now holds a 29.9% market share, compared to Opera’s 28.6%.
UC Browser’s worldwide growth has been driven by partnerships with phone makers including HTC, Samsung, Nokia, LG, Lenovo and carriers such as Vodafone, China Mobile and China Telecom. But its lead in India is still far from secure as Opera looks to take back market share by striking agreements with Indian manufacturers. In May, for example, Opera signed partnerships with seven mobile device makers to pre-load Android devices with Opera Mini mobile browser, which is popular in India because it compresses Web sites, allowing them to load faster on low-speed networks and use less data.
UCWeb named India as its second headquarter in April. At that time, co-founder and president Xiaopeng He said the company will seek partnerships across domains and verticals in order to build a thriving ecosystem in the Indian market, where UC Browser first launched in 2011. Having Ma on its board will be helpful as UCWeb works on entering different sectors. Ma resigned as CEO of Alibaba in May, but still serves as executive chairman of Alibaba Group, as well as chairman of the massive China Smart Logistics Network (CSN).
In turn, Ma’s presence on UCWeb’s board reinforces its close relationship with the company and makes it less likely that UCWeb will strike strategic partnerships with Alibaba rivals like Baidu, which reportedly try to purchase UCWeb in June 2012. UC Browser is China’s largest mobile browser with 33.3% of the market, compared to Opera’s 10% share.
In 2009, Alibaba made a strategic investment in UCWeb, which is planning a U.S. IPO later this year.
In a statement, UCWeb chairman and CEO Yu Yongfu said, “We hope that Jack will bring the tremendous experience he has in building Alibaba to our company, and Alibaba’s strength as the dominant e-commerce platform in China will help accelerate UCWeb’s transformation into a one-stop shop of Internet services.”