By Asina Pornwasin
Chinese Web services company expanding presence overseas
China’s leading Web services company Baidu is set to expand its footprint in the Thai market as a part of its overseas expansion strategy. Baidu’s International Communications director Kaiser Kuo reveals their plans in an interview with The Nation.
What is the global business direction of Baidu? What is the main business model of Baidu?
At present while our primary focus remains on China, where there are still very significant growth opportunities, we are nevertheless expanding our presence outside China, primarily in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, and in Latin America. Our main business model remains centered on search, with our primary revenues coming from performance-based search advertising, though there are other important revenue streams, including contextual and display advertising. For the time being, outside China we are putting our emphasis on building a great user experience and building our brand, rather than on pushing for revenue generation.
What is the flagship product and service that Baidu plan to use to expand into the global market?
While search is Baidu’s flagship product, both on the PC-based Internet and the mobile Internet, we have not launched branded Baidu search in markets outside China and Japan yet. Right now, we’re focused on products like Hao123, our powerful and useful navigation tool; on Baidu PC Faster, a PC optimisation tool; and on certain mobile products, including our Du Battery Saver. Security products for both PC and mobile are now also available in some ex-China markets.
Which countries are the priority markets for Baidu?
In Southeast Asia, the first market we’ve focused on is Thailand, where Hao123 and Baidu PC Faster have both done very well. Our next will be Indonesia – with more of a mobile emphasis. In Latin America, our primary market is Brazil, though we will most certainly be expanding our presence into the Spanish-speaking markets of the region as well. And in the Middle East/North Africa, we’ve focused on Egypt, with some products also targeted at the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
What kind of timeline are you looking at for expanding Baidu outside China?
We’re not able at present to discuss the specific expansion timeline outside China, but I can tell you that our international team is ramping up quickly, and we’ve brought many talented people aboard. We’re very excited about the opportunities we’re seeing in some of the markets we’re exploring.
What is the direction for Baidu in Thailand? What is the flagship product/service to serve Thais and when do you see that happening?
At present, Hao123 and Baidu PC Faster are our main products and services, but Baidu’s traditional strength is, of course, Internet search, and when we launch that, we want to make sure that it’s a very compelling product with obvious value to users. This requires building connections and partnerships with a great many trusted resource providers in Thailand, as well as a very in-depth understanding of the Thai language. Our success in China was due in great part to our deep grasp of the subtleties of Chinese, after all. To that end, we have been working on natural language processing and on many aspects of cognitive linguistics at a joint lab with the Singapore government’s Administration of Science and Technology Advanced Research, and much of the work being done there is focused on Thai.
What will be Baidu’s marketing strategy for the Thai market?
We haven’t made a big marketing push yet in Thailand, in part because we really believe that we need to better understand the local market and its specific contours and needs of the users better before we make that push. Baidu does not believe that one size fits all, and we want to make sure that our products are a really good, well-tailored fit for Thai users before we push forward too aggressively. However, we’re not able to release those goals [number of users and revenue forecast) at present.