Meitu, the maker of hot digital photo editing apps, is pivoting to social networks and creating beauty offline.

BEIJING — Over the last decade, Chinese tech company Meitu has amassed 1.5 billion users who download its arsenal of photo-editing apps to beautify themselves. The Xiamen-based company, which claims to have the largest database of human portraits on the planet, plans to restructure the company by moving away from merely providing tools and evolving into a social media ecosystem, it said Thursday.

Meitu chief executive officer and founder Wu Xinhong outlined its business strategy for the next decade at a press conference in Beijing. It involves two main shifts, with the upgrades set to take place on Sept. 21. First is taking its main beauty editing app in China, Meitu, and expanding it to behave more like Instagram, which as yet does not have an equivalent in China; and increasing social functions on Meipai, its video-editing app, to take advantage of the boom in sharing short video and live-streaming.

“While image-based social media has a massive overseas market, there has been no such counterpart in China,” Wu said. “Meitu is set to become a one-stop solution: After processing their photos, users can share right here on the Meitu app.”

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With respect to Meipai, the company is using a new catchphrase: “Talent worth sharing.” Wu unveiled a new social feature called “homework” soon to be launched. The new capability allows users to respond to a tutorial video — whether it be the latest new dance challenge or a makeup look — with their own video as a comment beneath it.

Meitu ceo Wu Xinhong on stage in Beijing announcing the firm's strategy for the next decade.

Meitu ceo Wu Xinhong on stage in Beijing announcing the firm’s strategy for the next decade.  Courtesy

The market seemed to respond positively to the move, with Meitu shares rising 1.53 percent on Thursday.

In a July 27 note, Jefferies analyst Karen Chan highlighted that “video including both long and short form, social and top mobile apps are share gainers and should show the highest resilience, while portal, vertical and search could be more vulnerable to share loss.”

Leveraging social networks is also what led to the meteoric rise of Pinduoduo, which now ranks as the country’s third largest e-commerce platform, something it achieved in just three years.

Aside from the new focus on social, Meitu’s management has also been more vocal about moving beauty from the virtual world to off-line.

It already makes a number of smartphones designed with special camera lenses and filters to help make the user look their best but last month, speaking at tech conference Rise in Hong Kong, Wu said the company would start producing skin-care analysis devices, which would help the company suggest and link to real world cosmetic treatments.

A Meitu V6 phone model, which is sold with a set of makeup brushes.

A Meitu V6 phone model, which is sold with a set of makeup brushes.  Courtesy

Meitu put that new capability on display in late July, welcoming 20,000 visitors to the company’s first-ever “Meivolution” festival, a two-day beauty event in Shanghai. There, users were able to try out the firm’s new device. Users snap photos of their face up close and an app helps to assess each person’s customized skin-care needs.

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