The Chinese presence in the Middle East is well-entrenched, with China becoming almost a byword for manufacturing, engineering, construction and supply of any kind of goods.
Over the years, China has also built up a global footprint for its consumer electronics industry, where ingenuity to come up with cheaper versions of the most sophisticated products not only has consumers bemused, but driven the original manufacturers to desperation.
Reports say Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has already overtaken Samsung in the domestic market for two consecutive quarters. Apple is facing a similar onslaught on its iPhones and iPads.
Huawei, another major smart phone brand, is consistently growing its global share. It is also a leading global ICT solutions provider and has partnerships with both Etisalat and du for upgrading the mobile infrastructure and supply of new technologies. The company has had a long-standing presence in the UAE, mostly working with Etisalat.
The Chinese’s technology focus is further changing, with domestic companies emerging as global players in Internet-related technologies, an area where China has had a low-key presence until recently.
The first major foray was by Alibaba, the largest e-commerce company in China and now all set to go global. Alibaba, the company founded by a former English teacher in his one-bedroom apartment in a lesser-known Chinese province, is preparing for an IPO that is expected to raise $20 billion (Dh73 billion) on the New York Stock Exchange.
Alibaba does not have much of a Middle East connection but for its name, which is derived from The Arabian Nights folklore. Just as Ali Baba, the woodcutter, discovered hidden treasures, the Alibaba founder conceived his platform as offering up a sprawling base of Chinese manufacturing to the outside world.
The first incarnation of Alibaba was as an online directory called China Pages, which did not live up to the teacher’s expectations and ultimately failed.
Another emerging Chinese major, meanwhile, has set up a big presence in Dubai, in pursuit of its ambition to take on giants like Google and Facebook. Daunting as the task may seem, the company is well and truly on its way.
Changyou.com is a leading online game developer, with its activities including the development, operation and licensing of online games for PCs and mobile devices. The company began operations as a business unit within the Sohu Group in 2003, but four years later became an independent company, and subsequently listed on Nasdaq in 2009.
The company’s “massively multiplayer online games” have been big hits. These are interactive online games that can be played simultaneously by hundreds of thousands of players. One of the most popular is TLBB, an adaptation of a famous Chinese novel ‘Tian Long Ba Bu’.
Changyou also owns and operates a number of web assets and software applications for PCs and mobile devices related to games.
Changyou’s Dubai office has a large team, which works for the localisation of the company’s popular Mobogenie platform. It was launched for the development of high quality Android synchronisation software and applications, and the platform already has 450 million registered users.
When WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook early this year for $19 billion, it had only 500 million users, which shows how important Mobogenie’s aggregation is in terms of intrinsic value.
Mobogenie has become a platform with the largest quantity of mobile resources, including apps, games, music, videos, and wallpapers. Mobogenie enables the transfer files from Android to PC and vice versa, backup of all data and restoration, installation of apps, sending of text messages from within Mobogenie on the PC, management of all apps, etc.
Changyou executives attribute this success to the company’s policy of transparency and strict enforcement of privacy rules. Unlike Google apps or Facebook, Mobogenie can be accessed without sharing any personal information and the apps are all free. Perhaps its biggest attraction is it is amenable to complete localisation.
— The writer is a journalist based in Dubai.