Tencent may be the biggest Internet service provider you’ve never heard of. Based in China, and based on its latest reported earnings, it serves over 800 million users, generated 9.8 billion USD in revenue and $3.2 billion USD in operating profit, and is growing organically and through partnerships and acquisitions at a rate of 38% (based on revenues, 2013 over 2012).
Tencent Graph From Reuters
The numbers are staggering, but what might be even more impressive is their strategy, to build off it’s based of QQ IM users, leveraging that success to expand into many more services, including gaming, social networking, search, shopping and more.
Co-founded in 1998 by Chief Executive Ma (“Pony”) Huateng, the company is estimated to support more than 70% of China’s roughly 400 million Internet users, with 80% on QQ.
With a winking cartoon penguin wearing a red scarf, QQ is especially popular among young people, who buy QQ coins (with real money) which they exchange for virtual gifts (images, ringtones, and accessories for games).
Beyond the numbers, I’m inspired by Tencent’s mission “to enhance the quality of human life through Internet services.” As China as a country and culture continues to evolve, as all countries and cultures are evolving, access to communication, information, entertainment, e-commerce, secure online payments, and more will continue to make a huge difference. Given strong financial performance, and thousands of employees including R&D staff, Tencent has been able to invest millions in setting up China’s first Internet research institute, with campuses in Beijing, Shanghai, and Shenzhen.
Tencent is also visionary in having set up one of China’s first large charities in 2006, including a fund and public participation on gongyi.qq.com. The website focuses on youth education, assisting impoverished communities, care for the disadvantaged, and disaster relief.
In the early days, it seemed inevitable that Google would take over the world – but now, Google may exit China due to the government policies associated with surveillance and more. According to the Wikipedia, Google China (a subsidiary of Google) ranks as the number 3 search engine in China, after Baidu and Soso.com. As of December 2013, its search share had declined to 1.7% from its December 2012 level of 12%.
Whatever your personal views are associated with how countries manage their Internet policies (and as we know, the US actively monitors Internet traffic and users at least as actively as other countries), there is no challenging the success of Tencent, QQ IM, and their ability to compete with global companies offering very similar services.
In my next post, I’ll share a find from South Africa…and from there to other continents and countries in search of more inspiring stories in the business world of real time communications.