China, with its population of over 1.3 billion people, is an emerging force in the business world. Just think of all the tainted product recalls coming out of China in the past year, and how many American companies that affected. Everyone who’s anyone is itching to get into business with China and capitalize on their huge population and growing demands. So why would it be any different in the online world?
IAC, the parent company of search engine Ask.com, is ready to make their biggest push yet into China. With an estimated 162 million (and growing) internet users, that’s far too large of a market to ignore. To date, most of IAC’s experiments in infiltrating the country have been dead ends and attempts gone sour. This time around, however, IAC is hoping to cover all of their bases and are putting up a significant chunk of cash – $100 million – and resources to make a dent in the coveted Chinese search industry.
Within two years, Ask and IAC hope to have penetrated the Chinese search market, although analysts are predicting that the search engine may take a slightly different form than the “conventional search-engine site that stateside consumers have come to expect.” Whether or not their new approach will help them to evade some of the issues that have confronted Yahoo and Google operations in China, such as censorship, remains to be seen.
Having tried and failed once already, and having seen the issues that rival search companies have encountered in China, Ask may be able to learn from their mistakes and those of others. If they can pull off this move and provide something that the Chinese not only need, but that also melds well with their culture, Ask.com may be able to pull ahead of its US-based rivals in China and capture a significant share of the search market. However, it is likely that homegrown operations such as Baidu.com may prove to be more formidable opponents.