BENGALURU: Top Indian consumer-focused unicorns like Paytm, Ola, Zomato, MakeMyTrip and others backed by Chinese capital are facing the ire of consumers. Users are targeting the Google Play Store ratings of these apps, citing their ‘Chinese connection’ even as experts feel that hardware products like smartphones will be harder to discard.
Most of these mobile applications have seen over the last one week increasing comments and lowest possible ratings from consumers. Some of the users are even uninstalling the apps as they are backed by China’s largest internet companies like Tencent, Alibaba and Ctrip. But interestingly, all these companies are run by Indian entrepreneurs based out of the country.
The down-voting of these apps hasn’t yet changed overall ratings significantly, but indicates the broader consumer sentiment gaining traction following the killing of 20 Indian soldiers owing to a border conflict with China in Ladakh. Chinese goods, especially leading smartphone players like Xiaomi, Vivo and other electronic appliance items, will take centre stage on top e-commerce platforms like Flipkart this week when the e-tailer holds its first summer sale since the virus outbreak.

For instance, at the end of March quarter, Chinese smartphone brands like Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo together had a market share of 73%. Xiaomi, Vivo, OnePlus, Paytm, Zomato, Ola and MakeMyTrip declined to comment on the story, while emails sent to other mentioned firms did not elicit any response.
Counterpoint senior research analyst Prachir Singh said the current situation would open new opportunities for brands like Samsung to gain during the anti-China sentiment, but consumers also don’t have as many options for low- to mid-level priced phones. “Leaving an app from a phone is easy compared to throwing a hardware device. Chinese brands have dominance in this (smartphone) space, so choices for consumers are very less compared to segments like smartwatch,” said Singh.
In fact, a host of Flipkart’s own private labels like SmartBuy, MarQ and Miss&Chief, under which it sells products like electronic accessories, washing machines and toys, are also made in China, according to the description of the origin of these products on the platform. On Amazon India, too, select handset and other accessory sales are lined up for brands like Xiaomi, OnePlus and Vivo along with its flagship private brand AmazonBasics. This private brand largely sells products that are made in China across categories at a noticeable discount than others.
OnePlus concluded a sold-out event of its device last Thursday on Amazon India. An ongoing sale on Myntra too has several products originating from China. This indicates the penetration of Chinese products in segments like mobile, smart TVs, power banks and headphones. People may be expressing their anger online, or there could even be incidents like a fringe group protesting outside Oppo’s office in Greater Noida, as reported on Sunday. But brand experts and analysts say the immediate impact would relatively be more on consumers apps, which one can uninstall, compared to devices that are Chinese and often cheaper than other market options.
“This (standoff) will definitely impact many Chinese-owned brands and apps that are widely in use in India. While some of this is being driven by the strong anti-China rhetoric and the sentiment fuelled by media reports, the calls to shun Chinese phone makers seems to be gaining traction, specifically in categories where there are reasonably priced options available. The same is true of apps, where many are feeling the need to replace them with options — or worse, going out of the way to negatively rate and review them,” said Lloyd Mathias, business strategist and marketer. He added that, historically, these nation boycotts have been short term and have not impacted purchasing behaviour on a permanent basis.
In Video:Apps using Chinese funds face consumers’ ire



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