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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

China Tik’ed Off, India Walks the Tok


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Mumbai: TikTok was a way of life for a large number of Indians in both metro and smaller towns. For many, the platform gave riches and stardom overnight. 

India accounted for a substantial chunk of TikTok installs worldwide to put things in perspective. TikTok reached 2 billion Apple App Store and Google Play Store downloads combined in April. India accounted for 611 million files, or nearly 30% of those. India has also outperformed China in terms of downloads, according to mobile intelligence company Sensor Tower. 

Fortunes change rapidly in cyberspace. TikTok ruled the roost in India a month ago. On 11th June, India’s TikTok’s alternative Chingari broke into the top 200 apps. As of July 1st, Chingari is the leading social application in less than 30 days.

China Tik'ed Off, India Walks the Tok - China, Chingari, india, Michael Pompeo, Tik Tok

In addition, there have been reports about a possible IPO of TikTok’s parent company ByteDance , which is one of the world’s highly valued startups. The ban just put a spanner in the works.

“Top TikTok influencers have pan india followers. Brands such as Pepsi, Myntra, Zara, Zomato, Lays, Hopscotch, Snapdeal etc. deployed them to get a great deal of traction with a lean budget.” says R. Joseph Kennedy of Bluebugs Communications.

On Monday night, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News that the United States is “certainly looking at” banning TikTok over fears that it may be used by the Beijing government as a tool for surveillance and propaganda. The potential US ban would deal another blow to TikTok after it recently went down in its biggest market, India.

Last week, Pompeo said the US welcomed India’s ban on 59 Chinese mobile apps, adding that it would “boost India’s integrity and national security”.

Close on the heels of Pompeo’s statement, TikTok announced that it would pull out of Hong Kong, “In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong,” said a TikTok spokesperson. 

In response to Chinese surveillance, TikTok has repeatedly refuted claims that the Chinese government has access to its users’ data or controls users’ content. CEO Kevin Mayer, has said TikTok’s data is held on servers in Singapore, and “is only being used by TikTok for TikTok users.”

Badri Santhanam, a UK based Independent Consultant & Data Practitioner says, “If global companies can conform to US and UK regulations when setting up shop, they should also act the same way in India, and they need to invest in India-based data centers one way or the other. The ban on Chinese apps offers India an opportunity to strengthen its Data Protection laws.”

China Tik'ed Off, India Walks the Tok - China, Chingari, india, Michael Pompeo, Tik Tok

Legislation in China requires companies originating in China to share user data, collected from across the world if requested by Chinese government or intelligence agencies

Bharath Ram V, an Information Risk Management Professional says, “The ban on the 59 apps must be seen through the prism of national security and they need to be seen as a necessity to ringfence our cyber presence from cyber warfare threats. Undoubtedly, a crisis always presents an opportunity, so it is also a time to assess our own app development capabilities.”

“The road to achieve Atmanirbharta is long but it has some very exciting destinations and milestones. Looking forward to that journey will be a good start by itself.” Bharat Ram concluded.

Following the ban, TikTok ‘s future in India remains uncertain. TikTok said it meets all data privacy requirements and is not sharing any information with foreign governments. “The Government of India has issued an interim order for the blocking of 59 apps, including TikTok, and we are in the process of complying with it. We have been invited to meet with concerned government stakeholders for an opportunity to respond and submit clarifications,” said Nikhil Gandhi, Head of TikTok India.

Coronavirus lockdown has brought about an immense shift in the way customers think and act. They have a reasonable amount of fear and pessimism in their minds, and there is a propensity to believe in a person with whom he/she can connect, rather than a celebrity who is larger than life.


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