Indians are obsessed with this Chinese selfie app that makes them look fair and lovely

Let me take a selfie first.
Let me take a selfie first.
Image: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri
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Chinese selfie app maker Meitu is taking over smartphones in India. So much so, that India now has the second-highest number of users for the app outside of China.

In 2016, its selfie-enhancement app, BeautyPlus Me (designed specifically for India), topped Google Play’s trending list for the country.

Since its launch in 2008, Meitu, a mobile internet company that enables photo and video editing on smartphones, has been a rage in China. Its apps, such as BeautyPlus and MakeupPlus, have been installed in over a billion devices globally, helping users take selfies, beautify them via makeup filters, and share them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These apps process close to 6 billion pictures every month.

After taking over China, Meitu is now wooing users in the world’s second-largest and fastest-growing smartphone market. Besides a booming mobile phone market, its young population makes India a desirable geography for Meitu, which counts users aged between 18 and 35 as its core audience.

Selfie love

Selfie-obsessed India—in 2015 the country reported the highest selfie-related deaths in the world—is fertile ground for Meitu.

While the company refused to share specific numbers for its BeautyPlus Me app, Google Playstore shows a million downloads in India since it was first launched in July. The total number of unique device installations in India, according to the company, has grown by 165% over the last year.

Earlier this year, Meitu firmed up plans to open an India office, roping in former Micromax employee Ravish Jain as country manager. “India is a goldmine for any app company right now,” said Jain explaining the company’s interest.

To push its presence in a country still struggling with slow internet speed, the company launched a lite version of BeautyPlus, called BeautyPlus Me, in July. This 10 MB app is available only in India.

Jain added that Meitu modifies its app in most markets to adapt to cultural preferences towards beauty. In India, for instance, looking light-skinned and blemish-free is often related to better marriage and job prospects.

The apps provide tools such as whitening skin complexion, erasing blemishes, teeth whitening, and brightening of eyes.

BeautyPlus Me is also available in 12 Indian languages.

Betting big

The Xiamen-based company that is due to raise $700 million in a stock listing in Hong Kong, has ambitious plans for India.

It has tied up with local handset makers such as Micromax and Lava to pre-load its apps on their devices and will soon feature branded beauty tutorials on its app. It also has plans to rope in local celebrities and fashion brands to promote the app.

“We want to add a big smartphone user base in India,” Jain added. One selfie at a time.