How TikTok’s ban in India might impact influencers and brands
Experts explain the possible impact of the ban of TikTok on the influencer community and brandsPixabay
What's the way forward for brands and influencers who relied heavily on TikTok?

How TikTok’s ban in India might impact influencers and brands

What's the way forward for brands and influencers who relied heavily on TikTok?
  • As the government banned 59 Chinese apps around talks of data privacy and security, many influencers and brands have been left in the lurch.
  • Since apps like TikTok have a huge influencer community and brands also have their marketing monies invested on the platform, we spoke to experts to understand how things might pan out in the near future.

For a while now, there have been increasing debates around data security and privacy in India. Amidst these conversations and also mounting tensions between China and India, the government of India on Monday announced the ban of around 59 Chinese apps.

These apps include popular video-sharing social networking platform TikTok, WeChat, UC Browser, SHAREit, Baidu Map, Shein, Helo and Likee, amongst others.

The government, in its official announcement said, “The Ministry of Information Technology, invoking it’s power under section 69A of the Information Technology Act read with the relevant provisions of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking of Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009 and in view of the emergent nature of threats has decided to block 59 apps ( see Appendix) since in view of information available they are engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, security of state and public order.”

Hours after the announcement was made, TikTok India’s head Nikhil Gandhi released a statement.It read, “The Government of India has issued an interim order for the blocking of 59 apps, including TikTok and we are in the process of complying with it. We have been invited to meet with concerned government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications. TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and have not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign government, including the Chinese Government. Further if we are requested to in the future we would not do so. We place the highest importance on user privacy and integrity.

TikTok has democratized the internet by making it available in 14 Indian languages, with hundreds of millions of users, artists, story-tellers, educators and performers depending on it for their livelihood, many of whom are first time internet users.”

TikTok enjoys a huge following in India and has a dedicated fan base as well as innumerable users who have become influencers on the platform. India accounts for a huge chuck of TikTok’s global installs. According to estimates by Sensor Tower, when TikTok crossed 2 billion global downloads, India was at the forefront of this growth. The country accounted for 611 million lifetime downloads or 30.3% of the total.

This opened up the opportunities for both content creators and brands who started looking at the platform as an effective way of reaching out to audiences. We saw quite a few brands come up with innovative campaigns on the platform. TikTok has also been strengthening its offerings for advertisers. However, this ban will put a lot of things on hold.

We wanted to understand the impact of this ban on the influencer community and reached out to a few experts. Here is what they had to say:

Shamsuddin Jasani, Group MD, Isobar South Asia

We don't know how long this ban is going to last for. But if it lasts for a few months it certainly is going to have a big effect on the curated video space, YouTube for sure will be the big gainer as well as Indian apps on the space.

Ashutosh, CEO and Co-founder, Buzzoka

The ban on Tik-Tok definitely calls for brands to rethink their influencer marketing strategies. Undeniably, the platform saw a spike in interest in the recent past however it must be noted that it formed only a part of brands' influencer marketing spend. On the contrary, mature platforms like Instagram and YouTube have always had an edge over the former.

As a result, the impact of its ban will be lesser on brands and more on the content creators who were only present on Tik-Tok. I believe there's always a silver lining. Disruption will take place in the market. There is no dearth of platforms hence, brands will increasingly turn to them to reach similar audiences. Similarly, influencers will be able to make new identities on other platforms as far as they are good and confident about their content creation. Moreover, this will create new avenues in the ecosystem for emerging Indian platforms like Mitron and Chingari and will encourage them to invest more in enhancing their respective platforms and see rapid growth from here.

Premkumar Iyer, National Operations Head, Gozoop

This ban is a very big move for Indian M&A. It will be interesting to see how the whole ban eventually plays out. Of all the apps banned, TikTok ranks highest on potential due to its hinterland dominance, which led brands to make investments on the platform, both in terms of time and money. Brands will probably press pause and see how this culminates before attempting any major course correction. However, the real game here is for the influencers who have built strong communities on the platform. We are witnessing a shift as most are moving towards Instagram as it is natively closest to what TikTok enabled for these creators. Cross promoting communities have always been the norm for influencers and since the ban was announced creators have started posting content asking their community to follow them on Instagram and YouTube so that if the ban continues fans can still watch their content. What's going to make this even more interesting is if Instagram's Reels and Facebook's Lasso short video format app launches in India as the timing could not be better.I think for most it is going to be like JayZ says “On to the Next One”.

Harikrishnan Pillai, CEO and Co-founder, TheSmallBigIdea

Digital platforms across the world are facing tremendous pressure from governments and advertisers to bring in more data transparency and content filtering. This move is led by public outrage and both, the government and brands are quite conscious of their imagery basis their stance.

The 150+ brand boycott of Facebook or the Chinese platform bans are clear indicators of this phenomenon. The question is what does it mean to the advertisers, agencies and platforms. In a short to medium term, advertisers and agencies will look at alternate platforms to help them meet their marketing goals. Some of the banned platforms are sizeable, so it would be difficult to find an immediate apparent replacement. In this case, a combination of replacements or an increase in presence in existing platforms can be an option. Also, the ban is still a little unclear from an implementation standpoint. The downloaded apps are still running, though new downloads are at a halt. If the government calls for a complete ban, things will go south for these platforms. Even then, I don't believe brands will advertise on these apps, fearing public outrage.

For influencers, from a short term POV, the business will be affected if they have had a single platform focus. From a long term perspective, Indian apps have a great opportunity to grow. ‘Revenge Download' will lead to a sudden spike of Indian apps. Whether they manage to be sticky and effective, time will tell.

Viraj Sheth, Co-founder and CEO, Monk Entertainment

The TikTok ban, if it stays for perpetuity, will prove to be a big dent in the life of many young and budding influencers. TikTok has given rise to an incredible number of influencers who rose to stardom through the platform and earned their bread and butter due to the audience earned from the app.

While most of the established TikTokers will see a dip in their branded content earnings because of this ban for a few months, they've been smart enough to build their audiences on platforms like Instagram & YouTube. When brands divert their spends from TikTok to other platforms, this ban will not affect their earnings over a period of time.

TikTok had been a huge catalyst in enabling talent from the farthest nooks and corners of India. The ban will leave a gap in the market for Indian short video platforms to come through and make their mark. I hope they make their moves right.

Neel Gogia, Co founder, IPLIX Media

This step will impact thousands of Tiktok influencers who are dependent on brands for their survival. Brands will be impacted as well. They have already started reaching out to us to understand how they can realign their strategies to reach similar audiences. It will be interesting to see how influencers and brands change their strategies to adapt to the other platforms. We feel in 5-6 months influencers can build their audience in these platforms (if they create relevant content).

Ankit Agarwal, Founder, Do Your Thng

The ban is more of a statement right now - a comma rather than a full stop. That’s evident from the clarification updated by TikTok India. If, and that’s a big if, the block becomes permanent, it has the potential to change the influencer landscape significantly. Right now, for marketers, TikTok is the space to target Gen Zers as 41% of its users fall in this age bracket. I feel it is one reason why brand custodians place it in the top 3 three platforms for influencer marketing [Instagram (94%), TikTok (52%) and YouTube (52%)]. On top of it, the app has higher engagement rates and average time spent per day than Instagram.

When you take away something so effective, brands are bound to feel the pinch. To compensate, they’ll redirect their influencer marketing efforts to other platforms – trigger the said change. On the creator side, the impact will be more substantial and devastating. As Nikhil Gandhi correctly points out, TikTok gave a voice to hundreds of creators generating vernacular content in India. While most creators are savvy enough to diversify to other platforms, there will be few who stand to lose their entire body of work. But all this is contingent on a permanent block, which in my opinion will most probably not happen. Not just because TikTok has been given a chance to submit clarifications, but because executing a ban is not simple with plenty of workarounds available.

Honey Singh, CEO & Co-Founder, #ARM Worldwide

Content creators have already started nurturing their other platforms like Instagram and Youtube. After this ban, I feel there will be a significant spike on Instagram. These content creators will also face monetary losses since brands have already started pausing their planned TikTok activities for now. At the moment, we are already in touch with many content creators and figuring out how to finish ongoing campaigns. Lastly, this ban will also allow these content creators to think about building a uniform fan following.

Post anti-China sentiments have already started depleting the wallets of influencers. After the ban, all the scheduled campaigns from the brands are on pause until further clarity from the government. Creators having large followings on other channels like Instagram/Youtube may recover, but there will be a significant loss for them.

The silver lining is that content creators should realize that nothing is permanent. They should start working on an omnichannel presence. Aside from nurturing an audience on a platform, a community beyond a single rented house is a must. The thumb rule for any brand is to know exactly where their audience is. Long-term solutions can include developing platforms such as forums, websites, blogs & newsletters to nurture their audience beyond a single platform.

Sandeep Sreekumar, Managing Director, Media Moments

Over the years, apps like TikTok, Helo and the likes had caught the eye of various brands and had developed into strong marketing mediums. Now, with the recent update, there will be a shift in the platforms used by the influencers while the overall approach will remain the same.

This move will also open new opportunities for many Indian apps.And it will be interesting to see how Indian apps like Chingari, Mitron and Roposo will come into the foreplay and cash in the situation. For instance, many apps experienced a massive increase in the download rates soon after the announcement.

Having said that; thorough understanding, planning and research will be required before associating with these apps to deliver right message and content.

But as long as quality content is being created, audiences will follow and as long as audiences are there, brands will invest regardless of the platform.

Piyush Kumar, CEO & Founder, Rooter

We have seen a 250% increase in new users joining Rooter in the last 12 hours and we are estimating 1 million new users on our platform in the next 15 Days. This surge will be organically driven by our users and content creators. The ban on Chinese apps like TikTok opens up a huge opportunity for Indian apps to come to the forefront. There will be a huge drop in user acquisition costs as Chinese apps may no longer invest their money in our homegrown apps money. Moreover, the advertising business for the Indian apps will also increase in the absence of TikTok.

TikTok might have been a source of income for thousands of content creators, but there were only 1-1.5% of users creating content on it. The rest were the consumers. With the emergence of alternate local platforms, creators will automatically shift their content dais, enticing the brands to partner with them for engaging with the audience. It will be a win-win situation for both.

Divanshi Gupta, Director, The Marcom Avenue

The recent geopolitical events on Indo-China borders have resulted in the Indian government banning TikTok and other 58 apps in the light of protecting the privacy and sovereignty of its residents. This action may have its repercussions on both the governments, but it is definitely going to have a significant impact on the brands and advertisers who had set aside the quarter budget for influencer marketing campaigns on TikTok social media. This short-form content media app had begun to attract a considerable number of users. And now, the advertisers will have to undeniably shift their strategy and focus on creating long-form content on platforms, like YouTube and Instagram, with already established and known faces by bidding adieu to TikTok influencers.