One year of Chinese apps ban — Indian alternatives take over TikTok

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One year of Chinese apps ban — Indian alternatives take over TikTok
Image by PankeysonPhotos from Pixabay
  • Indian government has banned over 250 Chinese apps over the last year, due to the geopolitical crisis with the neighbouring country.
  • The ban on Chinese apps impacted the short video segment the most, as it found itself in a void with the absence of top two players in the segment.
  • While many alternatives have emerged to give a tough competition to TikTok, any real competition to PUBG still does not exist.
You can now find Vassundhara Pandita, a former TikTok creator, entertaining about 4.5 million users on India’s Sharechat-owned Moj app. Just like her, thousands of Indian creators have set their camps on different short video apps that came into existence in the past one year, after the government of India decided to ban 59 Chinese apps on this day (June 29).

The banned apps not only included TikTok, the biggest short video platform in the world with a user base of 200+ million in India alone, but its alternatives Likee and Vigo as well. Vigo was owned by TikTok’s Chinese parent ByteDance that was supposed to be shut by October 2020 to direct users towards TikTok, but all these efforts were futile.

This is how TikTok creators’ hunt began to find the perfect Indian alternative that would help them continue entertaining millions of users and keep the flow of income running. But the first priority on the list was to redirect their followers to other social media platforms, most popularly Instagram.

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“I had to make short videos on my TikTok and YouTube [channels] to direct my followers to my Instagram handle,” says Vassundhara, who had more than five million followers on TikTok and goes by the username ‘@__vassundhara__’ on Instagram. As expected, Vassundhara and many other creators did lose their followers in this reshuffle, but thankfully finding the next stage turned out to be a little simpler.

Indian digital businesses fill up TikTok void


Well established digital businesses were already on to finding their way to dominate the Indian short video platform, which was suddenly left with a void with the exit of top two players -- TikTok and Likee From Sharechat to Dailyhunt, MXPlayer, Gaana, Zee5, you name it and they were already set to launch their Made-In-India offering.

A few months later, even YouTube and Instagram decided to grab on to this opportunity and launch their respective hypershots entertainment offering in India. So, the competition was on and it was a pretty hot one. But Indian platforms did fairly well for themselves in this highly competitive market.

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One year of Chinese apps ban — Indian alternatives take over TikTok

Just like TikTok, many of these Indian alternatives have set a monetisation practice in place for these creators. Each creator on these platforms, with a specific number of followers and reach, is paid a certain undisclosed amount. Besides this, they are also allowed to take any paid promotional partnerships in their personal capacity without having to share their income with the platforms.

There are only three shortcomings to the Indian alternatives at the moment. First, the limited market compared to TikTok that had its presence across the globe. Second, the limited market is further divided among the rival brands. Third, the not-so-great technological innovation and user-experience.

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While Instagram may have these problems figured out by integrating Reels into their image and video app. However, it is not a great offering in terms of the monetisation aspect.

It was much easier for a content to blow up on TikTok, given its artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms. It also offered more in-depth insights into the audience. On the other hand, it is much more difficult to blow up content on Instagram.

“Instagram has its plus points, but it's not offering much payout to influencers at the moment… Also Instagram, I think, is focusing on a more lavish life and a glamorous one with money. Unlike TikTok, we see only one or two videos from the rural parts of India on Instagram. Moj and other Indian apps, and even TikTok for instance, push such contents as well,” Vassundhara added.

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However, the Indian alternatives have replaced TikTok in the eyes of content creators at least. “If TikTok comes back to India, creators will still take some time to move to the platform. As you know, a lot of controversies have happened around TikTok in India like the YouTube roast or questions over its Chinese origin. People will take some time to understand this. By the time, creators will start going back to Moj or any other platform that may establish dominance,” Vassundhara said, adding the platform offers fair income to the creators from their end.

Notably, TikTok may to make a comeback to the Indian market soon, as it has reportedly started discussions with the government once again.

India Yet To Find PUBG’s Alternative

The Indian government’s attack on Chinese apps took down close to over 250 apps in the last one year. This also includes South Korean online multiplayer battle royale game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (PUBG). PUBG had more than 175 million installations from India alone which accounted for 24% of the total installations worldwide.

The ban on the online multiplayer battle royale game came due to its partnership with China-based Tencent Games. Tencent was PUBG Mobile’s licensed publisher in India. The duo ended their partnership in September 2020, and PUBG is now set to make a comeback in India in a new avatar ‘BattleGrounds Mobile India’.
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The launch of BattleGrounds Mobile India may be subject to scrutiny as well, after a IGN India report highlighted that the app was sending user data to China.

Despite the spike in India’s e-sports segment over the last one year due to PUBG ban and Covid-19, there haven't been any direct replacements to PUBG Mobile India. Many users simply switched to the web version of the app, which was not banned.

For PUBG Mobile India, Bengaluru-based nCore Games did come up with the one alternative -- Fearless And United Guards (FAUG) in September 2020. The company launched the beta version of the app earlier this week (June 27), but is yet to impress the Indian audience.
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One year of Chinese apps ban — Indian alternatives take over TikTok

What other segments were disrupted due to the ban of Chinese apps?


The ban on Chinese apps also promoted the Made-In-India sentiment that pushed users towards many Indian alternatives. For instance Koo and Tooter were the first to arrive as the alternatives to US-based microblogging website Twitter.

While Tooter was lost in the crowd, Koo has managed to set itself to a better start, at least. The one-year-old app already has about a third ( 6 million) of Twitter's 17 million users in India. It has also raised about $34 million to date from marquee investors like Tiger Global Management, Accel, Kalaari Capital, and more.
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The platform is set to accelerate even further amidst Indian government’s ongoing tussle with Twitter. It has also made an entry into Nigeria after the Nigerian government banned Twitter last week. Even Indian ministers have praised the app on many occasions.

China-based document scanning and file storage app CamScanner, which found its biggest market in India with 100 million users, was also banned on June 29, last year. Since then, the app has been shadowed by another new popular option, Gurugram-based alternative Kaagaz Scanner.

Launched in March 2020, the platform has over 5 million downloads and 1.7 million plus monthly active users. The platform has raised $575,000 last year from former Infosys vice-chairman Kris Gopalakrishnan’s Axilor Ventures, Better Capital and Pravega Ventures.
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