Amid rising tensions between India and China at the Line of Actual Control, Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre on Monday (June 29) banned 59 Chinese mobile apps including TikTok, UC Browser and Cam Scanner among others. A statement from the government said that the apps are ‘engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defence of India, the security of the state and public order’.
Tarun Pathak, an analyst at research firm Counterpoint, said the order would impact roughly one in three smartphone users in India. TikTok, Club Factory and UC Browser and other apps put together had more than 500 million (50 Crore) monthly active users in May, according to one of the top mobile insight firms.
TikTok has more than 100 million (10 crore) monthly active users in India. Notably, when TikTok app was blocked in India for a week in 2019, ByteDance had said in a court filing that it was losing more than $5,00,000 (9Rs 3.7 Crore) a day in the nation. ByteDance is the company which has developed TikTok.
According to a report, Indian users spent over 5.5 billion (550 Crore) hours on TikTok in 2019. Another report said that TikTok’s monthly active users increased by 90 per cent to 81 million by December 2019. In December 2019, the time spent on Tiktok in India was more than the next 11 countries combined.
Some apps on the banned list are very popular in India, especially TikTok. New social media platforms like Helo and Likee, as well as video chat app Bigo Live are immensely popular among Indians who are not comfortable in English. These users will have to look for substitutes.
Also, most of these platforms have Indian creators, for many of whom this is the only source of income. Many of these apps have offices and employees in India, and a few thousand jobs could be at stake.
According to a report published in April by Paulson Institute’s MacroPolo think tank, six of the top 10 most downloaded apps in India were from Chinese tech companies, compared with four from US companies.
India has been the biggest untapped market for some of China’s quirkiest social-media companies, which had been signing up hundreds of millions of consumers in the world’s second-most populous nation, looking to capture users who weren’t hooked on to US apps such as Facebook and Twitter.
Research firm Sensor Tower estimates that the 59 banned apps have accumulated 4.9 billion (490 Crore) downloads from Apple Inc’s India App Store and Alphabet Inc’s Google Play since January 2014, including 750 million (75 Crore) so far this year.
Of the top 25 most downloaded apps on India’s App Store and Google Play since April, eight were from Chinese publishers.
TikTok is bigger in India than anywhere else outside of China, mainly due to India’s massive population. The app was downloaded close to 650 million (65 Crore) times since January 2018 on the App Store and Google Play, according to Sensor Tower.
Young people are often found in parks and parking lots shooting 15-second videos that mimic the song-and-dance-infused movies of Bollywood.
In May, India ranked as the top country for new TikTok users, accounting for 20% of the app’s nearly 112 million downloads around the world, according to Sensor Tower.