Is Baidu pulling a Google?

Mar 16, 2016, 3:18 PM EDT
(Source: Jon Russell/flickr)
(Source: Jon Russell/flickr)

It appears as though Baidu, China’s search engine giant, is taking (another) page from Google’s playbook. Like its American counterpart, the Chinese company already enjoys a worldwide presence, having worked with chip giants like Intel and Qualcomm, and partnering with Europe-based telcos to bring services to Africa and the Middle East. Now, Baidu is looking to expand its business in India — a market many, including Google, view as the next booming internet economy.

To begin, Baidu is adding multiple Indian languages to some of its mobile apps for Android. (It added Hindi language support a few months ago, and now inboards Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, and Urdu.) These language support developments are leading to speculation that Baidu wants to launch its search engine in India. Tech in Asia points out that the company has already launched its search service in Brazil (currently Baidu’s only non-Chinese market).

And Baidu knows that mobile is the ticket to expansion. In February, the company reported revenue that topped analysts’ estimates, and which it attributed to the return on investment in its mobile markets. The company has been building out its mobile services for a few years, and dominates the search market. At the time of its revenue announcements, it emphasized that it is nowhere near finished with its mobile search growth. Clearly, India’s markets are the next target.

There are growing parallels between Baidu and Google. For example, while Google has been championing the self-driving car, Baidu has reportedly been stepping up its own efforts to develop autonomous cars, according to the Wall Street Journal. Adding to the parallels, Baidu recently launched its web mapping services outside China, in notably Japan, Thailand, South Korea, and Singapore. 

Equipped with navigation, internet browsers, mobile presence, and search, the company is clearly mirroring the business strategizing of its U.S. counterpart. Unsurprisingly, it is also facing privacy and security challenges. In late February, security researchers reported that thousands of apps using code from Baidu compromised the personal data of millions of Chinese users. The BBC wrote that the data reveals people’s locations, search terms, sites visited and the ID numbers of devices they own. It seems as though you haven’t truly made it in global tech until you’ve been pummeled with a security disaster. 

While Baidu has some catching up to do to reach the local availability of Google's 70+ regional editions, the company has set those efforts in motion.