After the Indian government’s ban on 59 Chinese apps including the widely popular short-video app TikTok back in early June, a huge space opened up in the short video social media market for local and global app developers to establish a presence in.
While equally good alternatives of TikTok already existed before the ban, TikTok stood out from its contemporaries in this respect. A good enough alternative to Gen Z’s favourite app did not and still does not exist. But since India was TikTok’s largest non-domestic market, the void its departure left in the digital lives of its users was a big one to fill.
Consequently, the month of July has seen a surge in TikTok substitute downloads. Users are still experimenting and app developers are still testing and rolling out new features in hopes of succeeding in TikTok’s legacy. To put it simply, the race is on and it is burning the tracks.
Roposo, Zili, and Dubsmash: The Biggest Contenders
According to a report by SensorTower, a global app analytics firm, Roposo, Zili, and Dubsmash are the top 3 short-video apps in India in the post-TikTok era.
Within three weeks of the ban, the cumulative downloads for these 3 apps surged by an alarming 155%, generating approximately 21.8 million downloads. While this might be a marginal figure compared to the 164.5 million downloads TikTok generated in the first half of 2020 alone, it is nevertheless a significant jump to occur in such a short span of time.
Before the ban, the total number of downloads for these apps stood between 8 – 9 million. Out of the three apps, the domestic app Roposo which was released 6 years ago in 2014 had the highest number of total downloads before and after the ban. An hourly average of 600,000 new hourly downloads of the app was recorded immediately after the ban.
Roposo was downloaded 5.5 million as of June 28, 2020, and this number shot up to 13.3 million by July 19.
The second most popular app users are trying out is Xiaomi’s Zili. Zili, which is also a Chinese app, seems to be a strong contender as of now. Despite being fairly new to the short-video ecosystem, having only launched last year in January, the app seems to have established a respectable presence for itself, considering that users seem to prefer it over Dubsmash, an older app in the top 3 with significantly lesser downloads. Zili’s total downloads increased from 2.9 million to 7.9 million between June and July.
Finally, Dubsmash, an international veteran in the short-video category, has made a place for itself among Indian consumers once again. As mentioned above, Dubsmash’s success is modest in comparison to Roposo ad Zili, but the app has undoubtedly seen a resurgence in its popularity. From a meek 145k downloads in June, it soared to little over half a million downloads this month.
In spite of the fascinating growth of TikTok alternative apps in July, TikTok’s legacy is difficult to overthrow, for a number of different reasons. While it is still difficult to say whether any new (or old) player will be able to scale up to that level of performance, specifications, and popularity, the outlook for Roposo seems the most promising. The short video app has been able to secure a user base equal to a third of TikTok’s Indian patrons.
The Future isn’t Set in Stone
However impressive, these figures reflect only the first three weeks of the post-TikTok era. As iterated earlier, TikTok’s popularity was a result of various factors, mainly, the ability to attract and retain users, due to the massive financing that went into developing and maintaining the app’s relevance.
Apart from the three apps mentioned above, other Indian apps like MX TakaTak, Chingari, and Josh are also emerging as significant players. While Chingari isn’t a new app, MX TakaTak and Josh, along with several others are all new arrivals in the Indian short-video arena. At the same time, Instagram Reels has officially become available in India, squashing possibilities of any new homegrown apps to become the next big thing unless they stand out by a wide margin.
At the moment, with 71 million lifetime downloads Roposo rules the roost, followed by Zilli and Dubsmash with 51 million and 30.4 million, respectively. Other homegrown players like Chingari and Mitron who have been creating a lot of buzz for some time, are leaving no stone unturned to capture a sizeable share of the short video sharing market. Both the companies have reportedly raised $1 million and $2 million in investment to fuel the growth.
At the same time, it isn’t clear whether the TikTok ban is here to stay as ByteDance revealed attempts at negotiation with the Indian government. Additionally, experts have clearly stated that the shoes TikTok left behind are far too large for current domestic short-video competitors to fill. Another gap that points to TikTok’s decided edge was its ability to attract brands and monetize the content its creators put out – something that homegrown TikTok alternatives are finding to replicate.
All in all, for any domestic competitor to function at a similar capacity as TikTok, their technological and financial prowess will have to be sturdy and fierce. The risk for international competitors to take over at that time is extremely high.