In 2019, Chinese tech companies increasingly shifted their focus overseas, in an effort to gain influence and market share abroad. Huawei’s feud with the US government has highlighted the international profile of the Chinese telecom, while smartphone players like OnePlus and OPPO continue to innovate to attract foreign consumers.
Below we have compiled a list of the top 10 companies that have been making waves in the global technology landscape over the past year. Not ranked in any specific order, these companies have further bolster China’s technological prowess and helped export the nation’s burgeoning innovative spirit across the world.
OnePlus has cemented its position as a force in the global smartphone industry. The success of their OnePlus 7, 7 Pro and 7T models has vaulted the company’s profile to the fore. As a result, OnePlus is now trying to diversify their business away from only smartphones, to create a more comprehensive ecosystem. The company will release its first “concept phone” at the upcoming 2020 CES in Las Vegas. In addition, the company has started to produce Smart TVs as well.
OnePlus has seen major success in India, where they lead the premium smartphone segment with 42% marketshare, and 33% overall. The company has broken into the top 5 premium brands globally, with 2% marketshare. Meanwhile OnePlus also made significant strides in the United States. According to Counterpoint Research, in Q1 2019, OnePlus finished as a top 4 smartphone brand in the US in the premium segment and in Q2 2019 they were the fastest growing smartphone brand in the US, growing 152% compared to the previous year. In October, OnePlus also collaborated with McLaren to release a limited edition smartphone.
ByteDance has been THE company to watch in 2019. After bursting onto the scene with their flagship news aggregation app Toutiao, the company has leveraged its extensive capabilities in AI-driven content recommendation to personalize a whole new generation of short video content through TikTok, and its domestic version, Douyin. TikTok has taken the world by storm, gaining huge popularity in many foreign markets including the US, India and Western Europe. However, ByteDance has not become complacent, instead showing ambition by expanding into areas including music streaming, gaming, search and even smartphones as rumors swirl about an impending blockbuster IPO.
With the title of the world’s most valuable startup keeping the headlines buzzing, ByteDance has acquired AI music startup Jukedeck, while pouring significant investment into sports content, even partnering with the NBA on content. The Beijing-based tech giant sees opportunity in every sector, even launching a new financial services application in 2019. This comprehensive and diverse assault on China’s tech scene has disrupted the market share of incumbent tech giants, and such an expansive approach has been legitimized by soaring ad revenue, surpassing both Tencent and Baidu.
Arguably the most news-worthy company of the year across the world, Huawei’s profile has been jolted into the international spotlight due to its turbulent relationship with the US government. However, Huawei has persevered and the company remains a leading telecom technology provider the world over. A global leader in next generation 5G technology, they have solicited over half of their current 5G contracts from European nations, and have plans to build an undersea fiber optics cable from China to Chile, the first trans-pacific endeavor of its type. In addition, Huawei has augmented their research capabilities through the development of their in-house chip subsidiary, HiSilicon. The company has also released a white paper on the future of autonomous driving with the advent of 5G. Huawei’s foresight extends beyond the popularization of 5G networks, as the company has reportedly begun research into 6G wireless communication in Canada.
In terms of their consumer-facing business, Huawei’s hardware, including mobile phones, has dominated the Chinese market, while also making forays abroad, although overseas progress has been hampered by the US blacklisting. In addition to the smashing success of Huawei’s foldable Mate X, 5G versions of their Mate 30 handsets and the Nove 6 series have been released, furthering the adoption of 5G networks in China. Huawei has also made progress in the AR/VR space, launching an AR mapping initiative to provide more vivid directional support, while also releasing another VR headset. Huawei collaborated with trendy Korean eyewear brand Gentle Monster on a smart glasses project. Also, due to the restriction on Google mobile services for Huawei devices, Huawei has developed their own HarmonyOS operating system to serve as a potential Android OS replacement. HarmonyOS is also not just limited to smartphones, but can be used in a variety of Huawei products and solutions including TVs, smartwatches and smart car solutions.
Xiaomi has been at the forefront of the internationalization of Chinese smartphones and other AIoT devices. In addition to a dominating lead in the smart TV and smartphones sectors in India, they have entered new markets including Russia, Chile and Japan and also extended their strong position in India. CEO Lei Jun confirmed that Xiaomi now has an overseas presence in all 10 ASEAN nations.
Their strategy of progressing their AIoT (Artificial Intelligence of Things) business has yielded results. As of the end of the third quarter, Xiaomi’s number of connected devices reached 213.2 million, a 62% increase from last year. Specifically, Xiaomi ranked in the top five in terms of global smart speaker shipments and introduced a new smart refrigerator. The company’s recent investment in Xpeng explores other sectors for their AIoT ecosystem. The launch of Mi Credit in India represents a move to expand into services, while hardware remains Xiaomi’s backbone. Xiaomi’s smartwatch will be reportedly be the first to feature 5G connectivity, while the Mi 10 will boast Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 865 chipset.
In 2019, Tencent has been both churning out social apps and also building a We-Chat powered ecosystem. The company is advancing their strategy of industrial internet development while simultaneously internationalizing. The company’s control of the gaming market remains strong, at over 50%, according to a third quarter report, highlighted by the resounding success of PUBG and Game of Peace. Tencent’s social approach has also manifested in their $2 billion investment in short video platform Kuaishou, along with their investment in Reddit.
In terms of internationalizing, Tencent has backed players in Southeast Asia including Shopee and Gojek and founded the global Esports federation in Singapore. In addition, Tencent extended their content partnership with the NBA until 2025, and also signed a partnership with South Africa to boost tourism. International luxury brands including Gucci have partnered with Tencent to create WeChat sales channels, including pop-up stores. Finally, Tencent also has brought the Nintendo Switch to Chinese users, and partnered with ROG to release a gaming smartphone, aiming to capitalize on the dominance of mobile gaming in China.
It has been an exciting 2019 for OPPO, as the company has begun preparations for the arrival of 5G, while diversifying its business away from solely smartphones. That being said, their flagship smartphones continued to proliferate globally, into markets across Europe as well as Thailand. The company signed a promotional partnership with FC Barcelona, one of the world’s leading football clubs and brands. Their promotional activities were diverse, as OPPO also presented the MVP award at the League of Legends World Championships.
OPPO released their new ColorOS to power a new generation of devices, and they have inspired artists and creatives around the world, creating a community around design and innovation. The company also pushed forward in terms of innovation, launching new flash charging technology, significantly augmenting the photographic capabilities of their smartphones, and creating an Airdrop analog for increased convenience. At OPPO’s 2019 INNO DAY, the company announced a $7 billion R&D push to diversify their business beyond just phones, and to enter the growing space of IoT. Additionally, OPPO will launch their first smartwatch early in 2020. The Chinese smartphone giant has big plans now that they have cemented themselves in the mobile phone market, and the progress made during 2019 will be telling for the future.
Chinese short video company Kuaishou has made significant strides in 2019, further popularizing bite-sized video content both in China and abroad. While the company competes with ByteDance’s Douyin, the platform has been successful in growing their user base, while also securing the exclusive content rights to the 2020 Spring Festival Gala. While Kuaishou’s current DAU is over 200 million, the company had ambitiously targeted 300 million DAU by the end of 2019. The company has attracted $2 billion in investment from Tencent.
Internationally, Kwai, Kuaishou’s international arm, has had strong success in Brazil, reaching 3 million DAU back in September. While the battle for the international short video sector is fierce with competition in places like Southeast Asia with TikTok, Kwai has been able to penetrate Latin America’s largest market.
In a pivotal year for Alibaba where the company completed its long-awaited IPO in Hong Kong, Alibaba has continued its dominance in the Chinese internet sector, importantly fending off the meteoric rise of Pinduoduo in the e-commerce space. Jack Ma, the legendary founder of the company stepped back to a more advisory role, while passing on the company’s leadership to current CEO Daniel Zhang.
Alibaba’s Double Eleven Shopping Festival was a resounding success, recording total GMV of $38.4 billion. Augmenting their e-commerce ecosystem, Alibaba also increased their share in logistics arm Cainiao, acquired NetEase’s Kaola, a cross-border e-commerce platform, and even invested $10 million into XpressBees, an Indian logistics startup. Alibaba also established a joint venture with Russian partners to expand their e-commerce capabilities in the country. In addition, Alibaba co-founder Joe Tsai acquired the Brooklyn Nets.
Alibaba continues to try and lead in the area of frontier technologies, acquiring Israeli startup InfinityAR which specializes in augmented reality software. Alibaba continues to lead the digitization of business in China, and their cloud services have received wide support as the most robust in the market.
Since Meituan Dianping’s IPO in 2018, the company has continued to consolidate its position as China’s super-app. With the acquisition of Mobike, and its subsequent rebranding as Meituan Bike, the platform has increased its user touchpoints and enhanced its cross-selling capabilities, evidenced by a strong third quarter performance. Meituan’s valuation has soared to nearly $76 billion, making it the third-largest listed Internet company in China following Alibaba ($428.3 billion) and Tencent ($394.3 billion), and ahead of search giant Baidu.
Meituan was also named World’s Most Innovative Company by Fast Company in 2019. The company continues to try and expand its new initiatives, furthering a fledgeling ride-hailing function, and exploring autonomous delivery solutions. Despite some concerns over delivery man safety and benefits, Meituan’s core food delivery business remains solid despite concerns over slowing demand. Meituan has also released lists of top brands and stores worldwide. The company has also increased the accessibility of their platform, optimizing the user interface for the visually impaired. In addition, Meituan has just recently significantly increased their investment in cloud-based enterprise services, mirroring strategies implemented by giants Alibaba and Tencent.
Education disruptor VIPKid have continued their growth in 2019, including securing another round of financing, led by Tencent. Cindy Mi’s company connects English teachers with Chinese students across the world, and has garnered a valuation in the region of $4.5 billion. VIPKid boasts over 90,000 English teachers from North America and more than 700,000 paid clients.
VIPKid was recently named one of Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work in 2020. In addition, the company was named in BrandZ’s Top 100 Most Valuable Chinese Brands report released by WPP and Kantar. VIPKid remains the talisman for Chinese online education, an industry that is projected to reach over 50% penetration by 2022.