A little known Chinese tech startup has achieved the impressive feat of amassing more than one billion installs in just three years -- by focusing on countries outside China.

The South China Morning Post says Apus made a name for itself in India and the Middle East thanks to its suite of Android apps.

It’s in those countries that the company’s most popular product, the Apus Launcher, has done well. The app -- essentially an Android skin -- allows users to change wallpapers and customise their devices. And it runs smoothly on the lower-spec phones that are popular in emerging markets.

42 percent of Apus' users are from Southeast Asia and South Asia, with 15 percent hailing from the Middle East. Like Chinese smartphone makers Huawei and Xiaomi, founder Li Tao told the SCMP that Apus was forced to look for growth overseas because of stiff competition at home.

He said the secret to the company’s success outside China was to learn the needs of each country. In India it found that its content aggregator Apus Discovery was popular, thanks to a strong interest in videos with dancing and singing.

The company now offers its own browser, a messaging app and even a flashlight.