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The Rise of Indian Video Sharing Apps: Do They Have What it Takes to Fill the TikTok Gap?

News18 image.

News18 image.

India’s recent ban on the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok having stunned users, but is presenting the country’s homegrown apps an opportunity on a platter, setting the scene for a scintillating ‘Make in India’ example.

The TikTok ban has become a catalyst for homegrown video-sharing apps for India. However, to prevail in the ecosystem, they must tread carefully and work hard.

India’s recent ban on the Chinese video-sharing app TikTok having stunned users, but is presenting the country’s homegrown apps an opportunity on a platter, setting the scene for a scintillating ‘Make in India’ example. Many Indian apps in this segment, like Chingari and Mitron, are already raking in users and funding.

The gap left by TikTok is massive, 611 million ‘lifetime’ downloads as on April 29 when the ban occurred. However, this window of opportunity might not last. Not only is this the right time for India’s homegrown apps to swoop in on the millions of Indian users who were hooked to TikTok, but they must also do so while circumnavigating the landscape in an ecosystem where non-Chinese foreign competitor apps are also licking their chops to enter India's video-sharing app space. At the same time, if Indian apps want to prevail longer in this market, users have to be kept happy with TikTok-like or better service and features. Until then, they must tread on eggshells.

A Strategic Ban

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The timing of the ban on Chinese apps looks strategic. It brings together the government’s economic and industrial policy with the security policy. It is noteworthy that the ban came when TikTok was in all its glory, leveraging the subscription boom that India is experiencing owing to the extended lockdown. The daily average screen usage time of Indians during the lockdown moved up from 2.5 hours to 4.5 hours, a surge of 20% in overall online consumption, according to the Ericsson Mobility Report.

Also Read: Missing TikTok Already? These Desi Apps May Make You Forget it has been Banned

Moreover, the fact that the reason for banning the apps is cited as national security, gives users further cause to opt for an app that is made in India. People are pumped up on patriotism more than they were before the India-China clash at the border.

Time to Swoop in

This is the right time for video-sharing apps to swoop in on the millions of Indian users who were hooked to TikTok. Some of them were even earning money through video sharing during the lockdown. Indian apps have to work hard to match the experience that TikTok provided, even if that means strategically copying some of the features that it offered.

Although it’s the ban on TikTok that is surprising, there were other Chinese apps in the video-sharing segment that was also banned, like Likee and Vigo. Though TikTok had the lion’s share, the ban on these other apps does vacate some more space for Indian apps to move in.

The Apps that Rose

Several apps similar to TikTok have been trying to make it for the past couple of years but are only now able to reach a user base in millions. LA-based Triller, founded two years before TikTok, gained over 20 million users in the Indian market following the ban.

Chingari too, launched in 2018, recorded more than 23 million downloads after the ban. It has also raised nearly INR 10 crore in seed funding. Seeing the surge in users, the platform has registered two separate entities, Tech4Billion Pvt. Ltd. and Chingari Media Pvt Ltd.

Also Read: TikTok Alternative 'Chingari' Clocks 10 Million Downloads on Google Play Store After Chinese App Ban

Mitron, which was founded in 2020, raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding just two days after the ban. There is also talk of the company raising another US$2 million from Nexus Venture Partners. Indian regional social media platform Sharechat launched the video-sharing app Moj just after the ban was declared. In six days, they had hit more than 10 million downloads. According to Sharechat co-founder and CEO, Ankush Sachdeva’s tweet, they had coded the app in 30 hours.

Among other, Indian app Roposo has added 500,000 more users after the ban. Meanwhile, Bolo Indya has raked in US$500,000 from investors.

Non-Chinese but Non-Indian

While Chinese apps are out of the picture, other foreign non-Chinese apps in the video-sharing segment pose a formidable threat to the ‘Make in India’ initiative. Many TikTok users have shifted to YouTube and Instagram. Big foreign brands with financial backing from investors and social backing from celebrities are likely to spread faster, leaving behind Indian brands. For example, American video-sharing app Triller gained over 20 million users in the Indian market following the ban.

Owing to this success, the app is trying to lure in the Indian youth by onboarding popular influencers and celebrities like Bhuvan Bam, Armaan Malik, and Awez Darbar. Indian apps may not have the same financial capability to keep their users happy.

What if?

While the opportunity of entering and making big bucks and a name in the video-sharing segment is definitely ripe, the window might be limited. It is noteworthy to remember that TikTok has been banned before, which was lifted. What happens if it lifts again?

Many of TikTok’s users may also ask this question and hence decide to wait before diving headlong into a new app. There is also speculation that tech giant Microsoft will buy the already successful app, in which case, all previous users might easily slip out of India’s homegrown apps.

Instead of rejoicing, Indian apps have to work extra hard at keeping the users they have gained, satisfied. The success of TikTok lay in their marketing skills. Indian apps are emulating its features to a great extent, which is a smart move right now, but they also need to up their market consolidation game.

This isn’t the time to risk an experiment that could backfire irreparably. Not only do they have to woo the users, but they also have to keep them wooed till they can be sure of their foothold in the market.

The author is the Editor at The TechPanda, one of the largest Indian tech publications.