The Comeback of TikTok In India: An Uphill Battle Or A Cakewalk Now?

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TikTok was dealt a bad hand when the Indian Government, following the hostilities at the Ladakh border, moved to ban the app immediately. However, that might not be how TikTok’s saga ends with the world’s second-largest internet market after all.

It has recently been found out that the popular short-form video app is working towards a concrete strategy to make a comeback in India.

Sources who are familiar with the developments have reported that TikTok is currently looking to partner up with firms which can help them with legal, advocacy, policy and communication in India.

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TikTok had long been staring at a probable ban under the Trump administration. However, now, following the U.S election results, ByteDance believes a swift resolution will be reached with the Walmart Oracle deal and therefore has started workout out possibilities to reclaim its market share in India as well.

When reached out to a TikTok spokesperson about the same, they neither confirmed nor denied the comeback strategy for India. Instead, he said that the company has been extremely committed to complying with all the local laws which include data privacy to resume operations in the country.

A source who denied being identified has revealed that TikTok can indeed return to India soon as all employees of ByteDance India have been retained and are on stand by. The source also said that there have been no layoffs and neither has there been any salary cuts, thus hinting that the comeback might, after all, be a probable possibility.

Now, here comes a critical question that needs to be answered. Assuming TikTok does resume its operations in India, can it compete with all the newer players that invaded the space post its ban?

TikTok Comeback: Is It Late Enough?

India was the biggest overseas market for TikTok. Before it got banned with 58 other apps, out of its 2 billion global downloads worldwide, India accounted for a whopping 611 million of those.

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However, as soon as TikTok went offline, the sharks sniffed blood and came to eating into the wide opening it left in the short-form video market space in the country.

First came the homegrown clones such as Roposo, MitronTV, Chingari, etc. Then arrived the biggies Youtube Shorts and Instagram Reels. Soon enough, users who were loyal fans of the Chinese origin app started moving on to the new platform of their choice after sensing that TikTok fiasco is far from over. Thus, one can concretely agree if and when TikTok can make a comeback; it will indeed have to compete with a crowded market space which was previously uncontested.

Post the ban, according to a report by SensorTower, a global app analytics firm, Roposo, Zili, and Dubsmash became the top 3 short-video apps of Indian consumers.

Within three short weeks of the ban, the cumulative downloads for these three apps surged by 155% which generated approximately 21.8 million downloads.

Similarly, in the case of Instagram Reels, data from app analytics firm Apptopia showed that Instagram clocked 7.8 million downloads in India between July 12 and August 16. The sudden surge in the increasing number of downloads of Instagram was led by the rising popularity of its Reels feature designed to target short video market.

It was a marginal rise from the 7 million downloads the Instagram app clocked 30 days before the launch of the TikTok rival feature. However, it still paints a compelling picture of how Reels must have definitely moved the needle for TikTok users.

Despite all the challenges, industry experts believe that none of the existing players is far from matching the features offered by TikTok. The Artificial Intelligence-powered recommendation of TikTok is still unmatched as proven to be a secret sauce behind the enormous success of TikTok.

Due to the absence of TikTok from the market, other players got an edge and advantage and gaining grounds despite not been able to match TikTok users expectations.

Therefore, it is clear as day that the short-form video content market space isn’t the same any longer when TikTok left India. Thus the previous ‘king of the jungle’ will need to adjust to this new normal and find ways to cut the clutter to reclaim its position. As of now, it is anybody’s guess if the comeback will be successful. We will keep you posted on all future developments. Until then, stay tuned.

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