Bhavesh Talreja, Founder and CEO of Globale Media, takes a look at India’s social video sharing landscape over a year after TikTok was ban by the Indian government, and how the several apps backed by established digital brands that jumped into the short-video space have been faring in this market.

Rarely does any industry see a behemoth garner a sizable chunk of the market and disappear. However, that’s exactly what happened to TikTok back in July 2020. The market-leading product was banned and pulled off the Google PlayStore and AppStore in India overnight. Now, over a year later, we look at the impact the ban had on India’s social video sharing landscape, see who picked up the slack, and what the future holds for this industry.

Recap: Why Was TikTok Banned?

On June 29, 2020, TikTok was banned in India over national security issues. The ban executed under Section 69(A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 was based on the grounds that TikTok, WeChat, etc., posed a threat to the sovereignty and integrity of India.

The result of TikTok’s exit was a massive void in the social media world, which was, for many, a ripe opportunity to grow, scale and lure users to their platforms.  

Influencers, who had millions of followers on the platform, were also seeking alternatives to retain their fanbase, and for many, it was a source of income they could not afford to lose. Fortunately, wherever there is opportunity, there is innovation and entrepreneurship.

Who Filled the Gap?

Post the TikTok ban, many apps backed by established digital brands jumped into the short-video space. These included VerSe Innovation’s Josh, Mohalla Tech’s Moj, MX Player’s MX TakaTak, ZEE5’s HiPi, Roposo and Chingari among others. 

In simple terms, many well-funded players have joined the fray since then and have been pumping in funds for user acquisition. Most of these Indian apps collaborated with popular creators and influencer marketing agencies to assimilate existing talent into the Indian short-video ecosystem. Indian apps also managed to retain about 67% of ex-TikTok users as per a report by RedSeer Consulting in April 2021.

The Present Scenario 

At present, apps in the short-video category have gargantuan download figures. According to Sensor Tower, MX TakaTak had over 100 million downloads in just the two quarters of 2021. Moj garnered around 87.6 million downloads in the same period, taking its total download tally to a whopping 192 million since July 2020. Close on their heels, competitor app Josh raked in nearly identical 84.2 million downloads over the first two quarters of 2021, taking its total downloads tally to 166.6 million since inception.

Most of these apps have ratings of 4.0 or more on the Google PlayStore as well and all these apps are backed by extremely well-funded parent companies. Take for example Josh’s parent company, DailyHunt raised a mammoth $450 million in new funds in August 2021. The company had secured $200 million in funding just five months before that. Similarly, Moj’s parent company Mohalla Tech has raised more than $911 million over seven rounds. Needless to mention, they are pumping tons of money into user acquisition. Incidentally, ZEE5 also launched its own short video app called HiPi. When launching it, ZEE5 maintained that they’ve always been planning to make a super app and HiPi is a part of that plan. 

Interestingly, most of these apps aren’t restricting themselves to short format videos and reels alone. They are moving into different domains and diversifying their business and reach. For example, Chingari is foraying into crypto with Token Gari and Roposo is venturing into social commerce. 

What to Expect in The Future?

Today, each of these homegrown apps that we have mentioned has millions of highly engaged users. Influencers are once again creating content being loved by the masses and brands are cashing in on their influence to monetise or popularise products and services.

The future, however, will not be limited to the Tier 1 cities. We are already seeing adoption from users from Tier 2 and even Tier 3 cities. Consequently, the success metrics will be user retention, quality of content and how much time users spend on the apps. Players who can nail all three are likely to rule the roost in this space.

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