BENGALURU: In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, food and safety come before love and sense of belonging. While US-based apps have looked at the latter, Chinese firms in India are going for the most fundamental needs of India’s smartphone-using consumers: Pushing the battery life to limits, and adding layers of security and safety, something that the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Tinder have looked past.

In India alone, Baidu has 45-million active users. Cheetah Mobile has 40 million. Apus has 25-million users while UCWeb is the most used mobile browser in India, according to statistics by StatCounter, a Dublin-based web traffic analysis tool.

One of the earliest entrants in the utility space is NYSE-listed Cheetah Mobile. “Most security applications in the United States require users to pay for these apps. The free motto is very special to us,” said CEO Fu Sheng. “There may be a lot of competition, but we have the time advantage. We are ahead of existing players.”

The company has been rapidly consolidating its partners in India: Micromax, InMobi and the likes. These startups are starting out with offices in Gurgaon to expand sales and commitment to working closely with Indian startups.

Experts say many of the utility app companies are able to achieve the kind of scale because they are able to subsidise costs with revenues from other areas of the business unlike in the US, where niche apps do not have other profitable business lines to fall back on.

“These Chinese companies are adept at adding features and functions quickly and many have deep pockets to support marketing and distribution investments,” said David Sullivan, MD of Alliance Development Group, which provides global technology companies with services on China market expansion, business development and strategic investment.

Apus, which has app launchers and a suite of other apps, has taken it a step further, by announcing aRs 100-crore fund to invest in startups and rapidly build their network of partners.

“The Chinese firms are not easily swayed by what is cool and trending. They really go for what is needed,” said Pranab Punj, associate VP and head of global marketing at Vserv, an adtech firm. These apps that serve as a command centre for all apps have a much deeper knowledge of a person’s smartphone usage and habits. As a result, these deceivingly simple mobile apps are turning into ad behemoths. Cheetah Mobile recently partnered with InMobi to launch an ad platform. So did Apus, which will use InMobi to make money off its apps and give InMobi access to its 200-million users in India.

Not just app makers, even new entrants in the smartphone space are betting on their utility apps to be the differentiator. For instance, one-yearold Qiku Internet has a freezer option in its phone, which effectively puts a hold on rarely-used but essential apps.

“We have a lot of technology in the phone that can increase the standby time by 40%,” said Alex Xiao, country head of India for QikuBaiduhas a 10-person office in Gurgaon and claims that its app store, Mobomarket, is the third-largest private app store in the world.