Instagram, one of the most popular social media platforms in the world, decided to take on TikTok when it launched a strikingly similar service as the latter, named Reels, in late 2019. Now, according to a report by Business Insider, Instagram is testing the service for India, days after the virally popular TikTok was banned in the country as part of 59 Chinese apps that were blacklisted by the Indian government. According to the report, insider sources with knowledge of the matter reportedly said that Instagram Reels is being offered to a limited number of users in India at the moment, suggesting that a wider rollout is on the cards.
While there is no official confirmation of Instagram Reels being launched in India, most services tend to take the route of testing among a smaller subset of the audience, before proceeding with a wider rollout. Given TikTok’s popularity in India, it is hardly surprising that the world’s largest social media group wants a share of a lucrative pie. Owned by Facebook, Instagram has a sizeable user base in India, but likely sees a strong potential of expansion by filling the void left behind by TikTok. Incidentally, this is exactly what a host of Indian startups are attempting to do, with contenders including ShareChat’s Moj, Roposo, Chingari, Bolo Indya, GoSocial and more.
Instagram Reels will be a part of the main Instagram app itself, and offers an interface that allows users to make 15-second videos with pre-recorded audio dialogues and music clips in the background. The format is almost exactly the same as TikTok, which shot to fame as a result of this virally popular format. For TikTok, India was the largest foreign market outside of its home country, China. According to publicly available data from App Annie, TikTok reportedly saw 323 million downloads in 2019 itself, and had over 200 million active users on its platform, many of whom turned creators to give birth to an all-new section of the social media influencer industry.
It is this that most Indian companies are targeting – platforms such as Roposo and GoSocial are vocally banking upon the original video creator community left in the lurch as a result of TikTok’s ban, in order to cash in on this growth opportunity. Facebook, the world’s largest and mightiest social media platform, took a surprise turn at this time by shutting down its service Lasso – also a TikTok clone. However, Reels now appears to be headed to India, likely targeting the same group of new users that all Indian startups are vying for.
According to a Facebook spokesperson’s statement on the matter with Business Insider, it appears that India may see an updated version of Instagram Reels, which may bring in more features that might also be localised to suit the Indian user base. At the moment, however, Facebook has not offered any official word on when might Reels be rolled out for all users in India, or any related plans as such.