UCWeb lays off India staff, Club Factory halts payments after app ban

Photo: Reuters

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd’s subsidiary UC Web is slashing staff in India after a ban on 59 Chinese-origin mobile apps that includes UC Web’s browser and two other products, according to staff and a company letter seen by Reuters.

India last month outlawed the apps following a skirmish between Indian and Chinese forces on a disputed stretch of Himalayan border in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.

It said the apps threatened India’s sovereignty and security and its tech minister described the ban as a “digital strike”.

UCWeb, which entered India a decade ago and operated the browser along with a news app and the Vmate short video app, told some employees in a letter dated July 15 and seen by Reuters that they were losing their jobs.

“This termination is on account of the ban imposed by the government of India on UCWeb and Vmate, hampering the company’s ability to continue providing services in India,” the company said in the letter.

UCWeb said in a statement that it had complied with the government order and stopped services but did not comment on whether it had shut operations entirely.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba declined to comment.

UC Browser had 130 million monthly active users in India. The company has under 100 direct employees in India and hundreds of third-party workers, sources said.

Another banned app, an e-commerce service called Club Factory (CF), has written to its Indian sellers saying it is invoking a “force majeure” clause – freeing it from contractual obligations.

“We hereby wish to inform that all settlements with sellers on the CF app and website are hereby being put on hold until the ban of the CF app and website is lifted,” the firm said in a letter to some 30,000 Indian sellers.

The India app ban requires a temporary halt of business activities and the company is working with the government to resolve their queries, Club Factory said in a statement.

Operators of the banned apps, which include the TikTok video service, have been asked by India to answer 77 questions, including whether they censored content, worked on behalf of foreign governments or lobbied influencers, Reuters reported previously.

Reuters

 

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.