How India’s TikTok ban has displaced its 200M users

With the sudden loss of their platform and income, TikTok stars are fleeing to local competitors.

by Briony Wright
17 July 2020, 11:50am

Before it was banned late last month, TikTok was India’s most frequently downloaded app, accounting for around one-third of TikTok downloads worldwide. For the country’s 200 million users, the app provided a modern megaphone for everyone from quarantine-bound tweens and Bollywood stars to stay-at-home mums and marginalised regional farmers - a positive lifeline of communication and income for many who had few other options. But, with the escalation of tensions between China and India resulting in a border clash with casualties last month, India made the call to ban TikTok, along with 58 other Chinese apps, declaring that they posed “a threat to sovereignty and integrity” of the nation.

Understandably, many of the people finding fame and fortune through TikTok were devastated when the short-form-video rug was pulled out from under them with little warning. Overnight, they lost their hard-won audience of millions and in most cases, their back-catalogue of content too. Speaking to Bloomberg, an aspiring college lecturer named Meenu B Lakshmi explained how she lost not only her 1.7 million followers but also all her family’s videos. “I didn’t anticipate things would change so fast...before I could retrieve all the data from the app, it was gone.”

TikTok, TikTok ban, India, China
Image via Twitter @TikTok_IN

Interestingly however, many displaced TikTok devotees also appear to support their government’s decision and see it as an opportunity for locally developed apps to rise from the ashes. Mujeeb Khan, a musician with almost two million followers told The Indian Express he stood behind the Government’s ban adding that, “nothing comes before the nation” and asking his fans to follow him on Instagram instead.

Meanwhile, over one hundred competitor apps are vying for TikTok’s lost business. Besides Instagram’s offering—Reels, and YouTube’s—Shorts, which have already begun tests in India, there are many local answers to TikTok, likely preferable to users because they’re made in India incorporating regional languages and local sensibilities, as well as storing their data locally.

So where are India’s TikTok users turning? It was reported that immediately following the ban, ‘India’s TikTok’ Chingari was seeing around 300,000 downloads per hour and another local app Roposo expects to double its users to 100 million by the end of the month. It’s clearly a huge opportunity for these companies but while TikTok’s loss is definitely their gain, according to The Drum, there’s no one app that’s even coming close to the success of TikTok yet.

And while TikTok’s second-largest market—the USA— also toys with a ban of its own, we’re sure it won’t be long before young people vote and choose the destination that will replace their beloved TikTok in India and beyond.

i-D Asia