Chinese internet giant Tencent is in no rush to launch its social networking platforms, music and services internationally — unless there is a space in the market that needs to be filled. Though Tencent runs China’s biggest social network, music and gaming system — including billion user-strong WeChat messaging app — it is mostly unknown to Westerners.
“People ask, when are we bringing WeChat to different countries,” Tencent Senior Executive Vice President Seng Yee Lau told Reuters. “Our answer has always been, for any digital services or products, … if they have a better way of meeting the needs of the local customers, then they have a basis to be in there. If they haven’t figured out a way to be a better alternative then we have no basis of being there.”
Still, many have speculated that the company might be ready to go international, especially after it signed a trade deal with Britain in May to develop creative partnerships with organizations like the BBC, British Fashion Council and Visit Britain. In addition, Tencent has spent billions of dollars on a variety of international investments in eCommerce, payments and gaming firms.
So where is the company planning to invest next? According to Lau, the company is interested in partnering with startups that would offer something to its Chinese audience, with a particular focus on high-tech and artificial intelligence.
“Everybody around the world is looking at us to be a gateway into China, we are the infrastructure, so there are more people looking at opportunities to come to China with us than us going out,” he said.
Just last month, the company partnered with Chinese real estate giant Dalian Wanda Group to enable both companies to push into the world of so-called “smart retail,” in which consumers can make purchases in physical stores with an integration of online and offline data.