Whether you’re an avid content creator on TikTok, a follower of TikTok stars Riyaz Aly and Arishfa Khan, a regular user of Facebook who has had chance to come across 60-second Emo content or just a bored, locked down Indian listening to speeches by Prime Minister Modi, you must have come across….Tiktok...which is perhaps the most prominent two-syllable word trending today, giving good old-fashioned competition to #atmanirbhar and #Covid19.
One thing the Covid-19 resulting lockdown in India has shown the nation is how complex relationships between business, national governance and international diplomacy affect each other. Politics affects commerce and industry, which might have surprised a lot of self-proclaimed capitalists and Tiktok influencers alike. We look at a case in point - the highly controversial, exceptionally popular social networking service, TikTok that recently made headlines following a deadly border encounter between Indian and Chinese army troops along Galwan Valley, Ladakh last month, which led to the following interim order.......
Effects on Indo-China Technology Ties -
According to a report published by
China's State-run media The Global Times, ByteDance - the parent company of TikTok could lose up to $6 billion (45000 crore INR) after this ban. This is a huge setback to a multinational company whose most rapidly growing market is India, with around 200 million active users as of 2020 and increasing. The platform had recorded 323 million downloads in India in 2019, and the country accounted for 44% of the total app downloads. Obviously, this step has also derailed a $1 billion proposed expansion plan for now.
The surprise moratorium hit the Chinese Internet companies just as they were making headway in the world’s fastest-growing smartphone arena, en route to going global and challenging American tech industry supremacy. India’s policy jeopardises all those successes, and could have wider geopolitical consequences. With China’s tech companies poised to become some of the most dominant in emerging industries like Artificial Intelligence, India’s actions may spur countries around the world to weigh the extent to which they let China collect user data and potentially leverage this in the near future. This will also cast renewed aspersions on Tiktok’s ability to censor pornographic
content, cyber bullying, fake news, and hate content. India had already banned the app once early in 2019 because of the same reasons and so had Indonesia. These actions will also bear serious consequences in terms of procuring investments form the Chinese, as it has dealt a severe blow to their confidence, and the Indian economy could remain subdued for a protracted time under the devastating shocks of the current pandemic. The World Bank has already declared global recession in 2020 and it will be tougher for developing countries like India to recover.
How this ban will influence brand and influencer strategy -
Undeniably, if this ban stays on for perpetuity, it will put the influencer community in a soup as it would have stripped them off a source of their income, their “star” status and will certainly have adverse effects on the curated video space. In such times, alternative mature
platforms like YouTube and Instagram would source : Economic Times, India Times be the big gainers in this sphere. Instagram
has already come out with an alternative “Reels” but it is for the coming days to decide whether it will be able to tap into the same market that Tiktok was able to - the biggest obstacle being its presence being limited to the Internet elite in content creation. It has been reported that Tiktok India Inc. will definitely work with the government to allay their fears and get back on the Playstore (Google) and App Store (Apple) again.
This story of rise and fall and (maybe rise again?) serves as a lesson for content creators to start working on and establish an omnichannel presence. Brands shouldn’t face as severe a blow as there is no dearth of platforms for them to turn to reach to similar audiences – the big blow is however that TikTok provided access to a market of first-time Internet users in Tier-II and II cities that no other platform had been able to penetrate as well. A lot of brands have established a presence on a multitude of social media channels and a lot of them had also questioned the long-term proposition that Tiktok offered to them. The infancy of the company had never really given conclusion to whether user engagement in #SwagStepChallenge (Pepsi) and Jeetega Saara India (ICC Cricket WorldCup) resulting in increased social media following actually led to more sales.
Opportunities Ahead -
It would be disrespectful and incomplete to end any current news story without mentioning Prime Minister Modi’s plans of “Atmanirbhar Bharat" (self-sufficient India). This has opened up opportunities to indigenous brands like Mitron, Chingari and ShareChat to serve as the most fitting alternatives in trying times like these but more importantly coincide with the Vocal for Local narrative and promote “Made in India” products. It is anybody’s game right now with a billion-dollar market of around 200 million users up for grabs! There’s no better time than that at hand to launch products into the Indian Digital market amidst the rising awareness for native goods, India’s craze for Bollywood-style entertainment and full support by the Indian Government.