TikTok ban forces influencers to shift to homegrown short-form video apps

The platform has amassed more than 200 million users in India


New Delhi: On Monday, thousands had a career in making videos and overnight they are jobless, adding to the existing recession in the country. TikTok was not just a source of entertainment for many but also a way to earn their daily bread and butter. Right after the ban, the app became unavailable for download on Apple’s App Store and Google Play Store in India. 

TikTok, which has amassed more than 200 million users in India, identifies Asia’s third-largest economy as its biggest overseas market. Over the years, the platform has become a favourite amongst brands for influencer marketing. 

Mirum India director of business development- Srikant Subramanian said that the budgets on influencer marketing will continue to remain. The marketers realise that influencers are the ones who are creating meaningful relationships for their brands with consumers and using those influencers would be key for their endeavours.

“The next few months will be critical from an analytics POV. We will start to see the movement of audiences and behaviour of content consumption on existing large channels. Basis that, the brands will need to change strategies when that happens. In the short term, depending on the channel, brands will continue to do what they are doing now,” Subramanian adds.

Zirca Digital Solutions CEO and director Neena Dasgupta is of the opinion that the platform’s rise has been phenomenal and what is interesting is that not only did people adapt to its format rather quickly but people stuck to the platform. 

“In its absence, this huge number of users will migrate to other platforms and everything from digital marketing budgets to consumer engagement strategies will need to be rejigged. The marketing spends – particularly on influencers – were on the rise and the ban will lead to the reallocation of these budgets. So, the influencer marketing system is in for a change. For new platforms similar to TikTok it is going to be an opportunity to acquire and for existing platforms, it could be an opportunity to adapt as well as acquire."

TikTok, which was blocked in India for a week last year but was accessible to users who had already installed the app on their smartphones, said last year in a court filing that it was losing more than $500,000 a day. According to reports, ByteDance had planned to invest $1 billion in India to expand the reach of TikTok, a plan that now appears to have been derailed.

As per the Indian government’s statements, the ban of TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps is in response to the alleged possibility of data theft and security breach of Indian nationals, due to the ongoing geopolitical Indo-China tension.

According to Dasgupta, Data security has been a long-pending agenda for the government. “I would not be surprised if this is accompanied by further bans irrespective of the source of the apps. The need of the hour are policies that can safeguard internet users and their privacy and we are yet to see these policies and how they are implemented.”

Marcom Avenue director Divanshi Gupta says that India is working on undertaking various campaigns and projects that will make the country self-reliant regarding Chinese companies in power and mobile technology. “The country is home to multiple brands working on a three-pronged strategy (restart, restore and resurgence) to boost in-house technology and innovation while uplifting manufacturing in the national state,” she says.

However, Gupta says that the decision to ban Chinese apps may not be directly classified as an "economic sanction" as China is a massive investor in the Indian business diaspora. It is more because of the national security threat and data theft.

Content creator Ankush Bahuguna, who makes several videos on social media platforms including TikTok, says that due to the ban on the app, he will have one less platform to expand his universe and to engage with the audience. 

"I think it is going to have a huge impact on creators who were making content exclusively on TikTok. The shift to a new platform means starting from scratch and I can't imagine how difficult it must be for so many people. I think it will be nice if other content creators could step in and help out TikTokers build themselves back on other platforms because I've seen a lot of TikTokers create very entertaining content and they deserve to stay relevant regardless of what happens to one app," he says. 

RJ Sukriti Chaturvedi, popular content creator on Tiktok, Instagram, Facebook and Youtube who is known for her quirky and funny videos on social media platform says that if a breach of privacy has been conducted on the app, then it’s best that users shift to some other platform which ensures security. “It’s a piece of sad news for content creators who rose to fame through TikTok but there are other platforms too like Instagram or Youtube which can also add value for content creators.”

The short-form video app also became advertisers’ new darling, mainly due to the access it gives to advertisers to creators and consumers. 

“TikTok will suffer but Bytedance is a trooper,” Subramanian mentions. “They will find a way to make revenue. A lot depends on the regulation bit. Overall advertisers will be fine, they will split the audience and hence mostly split the revenue in the long term. It all depends on how long the void remains. I suspect many new apps will launch, and some existing ones like Hike could take advantage and then add some new features - especially since the markets are the same.”

TikTok ban in India has already forced its users to look for alternatives. TikTok creators are requesting their fans to follow them on other social media platforms including Instagram and YouTube. Many influencers are also welcoming the latest move by the government. Whether it is Mitron, Chingari or Bolo Indya, the Indian rivals of the Chinese video-sharing app are hoping to grow their presence in the country and expand their user base by attracting several TikTokers to their platforms.

“This would help Indian UGC platforms to garner content creators at a much higher pace and organically. Cost of creator acquisition will tend to reduce drastically due to this. This shall also enable a lower cost of consumer acquisition as many creators would be bringing in their follower base (to some extent) on to the Indian UGCs which they finally opt for creating videos going forward. For example, we have seen over one lakh new content creators join Bolo indya in last 24 hours at zero cost, and more than five lakh videos being created by them in last 24 hours, enabling them to go viral on Bolo Indya in least possible team, much quicker than other Indian UGCs,” shares Bolo Indya founder Varun Saxena.

Saxena adds that since Monday, the platform has witnessed 10x surge in traction. “However, this has increased to 30x and we have hardly seen any downtime (apart from little speed issues for a few minutes) as compared to some of the other Indian UGCs which went down for hours today. We have taken requisite measures both on application server and database server sides and we are now ready to handle 80x surge in traffic from here.”

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