China’s ByteDance is cutting the size of its 2,000-plus India team and is unsure when it will make a comeback, the company told employees in an internal memo on Wednesday, months after its popular TikTok video app was banned. The move came after India this month decided to retain its ban on TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps following responses from the companies on issues such as compliance and privacy.
The ban dates from last year when political tension between the neighbours rose over their disputed border. “We initially hoped that this situation would be short-lived…we find that has not been the case,” ByteDance wrote in the memo which was seen by Reuters. “We simply cannot responsibly stay fully staffed while our apps remain un-operational…we don’t know when we will make a comeback in India.”
In a statement, the company said it was disappointing that despite its efforts it had not received a clear direction on how and when its apps could be reinstated. It did not specify how many employees would lose their jobs. Before the ban, India had been one of TikTok’s largest markets and ByteDance in 2019 had laid out plans to invest $1 billion in India. At the time of last year’s ban, the Indian government described the apps as prejudicial to the “sovereignty and integrity of India.” The move followed a skirmish with Chinese troops at a disputed Himalayan border site that killed 20 Indian soldiers.
In the United States, the previous Trump administration ordered ByteDance to divest TikTok citing national security concerns, and sought to impose restrictions that would have effectively barred its use. TikTok has also come under scrutiny in Australia for any risks it may pose to users from around potential foreign interference and data privacy issues.