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Baidu to enter Japanese search market

December 4th, 2006

According to Forbes, via Webmaster World, Baidu is going to enter the Japanese search market. Now this doesn’t come as a surprise to me, nor should it come as a surprise to people who read my blog.

I interviewed Baidu R&D staff
while I was an MBA student at Tsinghua University in Beijing. I asked them if they had plans to expand outside the Chinese market, they said no. I also asked them if they planned to implement a blog search engine, they said no. I interviewed them on October 20th, 2005. I’d like to think they weren’t lying to me. Of course I wanted to think the same thing of my Sauder MBA classmates too…

In defense of Baidu enough time has elapsed since I interviewed them that they could have conducted six months of research into the Japanese search engine market. And altering their search engine to give greater weight to timeliness instead of timelessness is something Gou Dan agreed would be easy enough to do. Maybe my discussion with them or my research paper gave them some ideas.

In my research paper I felt Baidu needed to expand outside of China to compete against their global competitors particularly: Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo. I suggested the obvious markets of the other CJKV countries. These are the countries that still use to some extent the Chinese character system, it stands for: China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. Japan is the largest market of the three so presumeably it is potentially the most profitable. The Korean internet market contains a host of made in Korea internet properties and Koreans have shown a tendency to prefer them over foreign firms. Foreign internet properties have had greater success in China and Japan than Korea. Vietnam, which was moved away from the Chinese character system by the French, is the least attractive. Their population has the lowest average income and likely internet usage rates. Emlyn would probably want me to mention Singapore as a potential market for Baidu, the other one I also saw was the overseas Chinese community. These last two markets probably already use Baidu.

Update: Years later and Baidu is still the largest search engine in China and the Chinese government prevents foreign competition except for Bing and Yandex, but having lived in China for years, they are all inferior to Google.

This isn’t the first strategy paper from my time as an MBA student that proved to be prescient. Nor is it even the first time speculation in my blog has later been exactly what a company has chosen to do. Unfortunantly being right hasn’t been beneficial. I’m still unemployed. And it doesn’t matter if you write the truth, if no one believes you. That is something I told Sverre Panduro a long time ago.


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