Indian Short Video Industry: The TikTok Ban Aftermath
I deep dive into the TikTok ban and the aftermath, which resulted in a bunch of "alternatives" entering the market.
With each passing year, the attention span of an average human being is reducing. We want more information in the shortest time possible. If something doesn’t catch our attention within the first few seconds, we scroll away.
The Inception 🎯
The Vine app was where it all began. Released in 2013, the app allowed users to share six-second videos. People used to upload, browse and surf through trending videos. Many competitors such as Instagram released better versions of their own, and that’s how Vine died.
Vine was available only for a few years, but it shook the internet in a way no one would have imagined.
Tiktok: The Storm 🌎
The next big thing that came is Tiktok. It allows you to create 15-second to 1-minute videos with an amazing easy-to-use editor. The app did not even require you to signup; you just download and open it to start scrolling through the short videos.
Released in 2016, the app exploded in popularity all over the world. This chinese app has had over 2 Billion downloads worldwide and 611 million installations in India as of April 2020.
Tiktok with its short videos kept you hooked regardless of whether you were a creator or an audience. For a new creator, it would push their content to get the engagement; resulting in the creator uploading more Tiktoks. With a new user who just wants to watch TikToks, it would throw popular videos using an algorithm based on what the user likes and dislikes on the app.
The Ease of Editing
TikTok worked because it was really easy to use. Their onboarding was flawless - just download the app and you are good to go. No signup or anything, open and scroll away!
If you wanted to create content, the app got you covered. It had such a powerful and easy-to-use video editor. So easy that possibly anyone who knows how to use a smartphone can just get on and start creating!
You would scroll the app’s feed and feel like you could do this too, and people started creating in the best way they could.
Remember: Tiktok surpassed engagements of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!
The Rural Impact
The app became extremely popular in Rural India, even more than Urban India.
It gave a platform, a voice to the people who have been unable to make out of their oppressive societies. It became a culture embracing each and everyone who created content and you could see their happy faces scrolling through your phone. Often in the clash of urban and rural, the former called them “cringe”, but I always believed it was one of the best things that happened to the latter.
Indian creators on TikTok were not just creating, they were earning too. The people with a large following got sponsorship deals and advertisements. You did not need to be a star to be famous anymore, you just needed a smartphone with TikTok installed.
We would’ve never been able to see the beautiful short video below, all thanks to TikTok.
In June 2020, The Indian Government announced the ban of TikTok along with 53 other chinese apps, following a land dispute with China. India was one of the biggest markets for ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok. They challenged the ban, but nothing worked out. As of Feb 2021, ByteDance finally gave up on the unban and decided to exit the Indian market.
TikTok’s exit gave Facebook Shorts, Instagram Reels and Youtube Shorts a huge advantage. The platforms with millions of users already took a feature and implemented it into their app, and it worked in their favour.
Many “TikTok clones” came into the Indian market with the same formula. While they haven’t managed to make people forget TikTok, checking them out is worthwhile.
The Alternatives - A New Beginning 🚀
The ban of Tiktok made people crave the 15-second video juice. Indians realized the potential, and soon there were a bunch of TikTok alternatives available to download.
Here’s some of them which are currently on everyone’s mind:
Its parent company is Times Internet. It comes as a spinoff app of Android’s famous video player - MX Player.
Some of it’s achievements include:
- In Dec 2020, they launched a ₹100-crores creator fund which will provide incentives to users who create engaging and viral content on the app.
- Partnered with 7 IPL teams in the IPL 2021
- One of the most downloaded Indian app of Q1 2021
Funding stats: According to Entrackr, MX Player is all set to become a unicorn as it’s in talks to raise up to $150 million in a new round, as of March 2021.
First released in Nov 2018, the app was rebranded and redesigned in July 2020, after the TikTok ban.
Chingari is doing big moves to keep its users rolling:
- They recently partnered with TrueFan, which allows users to meet celebrities via video calling.
- Also partnered with: Koinage Records (Delhi-based music label), NH Studioz, Celebyte, Bhojpuri Channel Filamchi, Biiggbang Amusement, Kadak Entertainment, Dekko, MorningStar Records, Brut India, Wild Music Records & Wild Music Haryanvi, Licensing deal with T-Series, Hoichoi are to name a few!
The team recently released an app called Fireside, which is basically a Clubhouse alternative. I wonder if they specialize in making alternative apps only.
The app was launched in July 2020, days after the Tiktok ban.
“Moj is one of the fastest Indian short video platforms to cross 100 million downloads, achieving the goal in less than 200 days. The app sees an average user time spent of 34 minutes daily and has crossed 80 million monthly active users now, according to the company.”
- Gaurav Mishra, Senior VP of Products - Sharechat to Indian Express
Recent funding: ShareChat raised $502 million as part of its Series E round. It’s one of the largest funding amounts raised so far this year, according to a report by YourStory.
This app was launched back in 2019 by Xiaomi, company famous for its affordable range of smartphoens to compete with TikTok. It has managed to be safe from the Indian Govt. ban waves till now.
“With about eight million installs, Zili has grown 167 percent, in the three weeks following the ban.”
- The Hindu (July 2020)
Dailyhunt (formerly known as Newshunt) was found in 2019 with a focus on news in many regional languages, the local vibe which made them well-known. The company decided to jump into the short video space after the Tiktok ban, and released its first beta on July 4.
“The app has since garnered more than 10 Mn downloads on the Google Play Store. Dailyhunt announced that Josh has partnered with four mega music labels in T-Series, Sony, Zee Music and Divo Music. Moreover, in the last 45 days of its beta phase, Josh attained the 50 Mn downloads mark, stitched partnerships with 200 exclusive content creators on its platform, helping it attract 23 Mn daily active users (DAUs), 21+ minutes time spent per DAU and over 5 Mn independent content creators.”
Funding stats: In Dec 2020, Dailyhunt entered the unicorn club with $100 million round from Google, Microsoft and others. The company has also faced backlash as it raised funding from chinese investors earlier such as ByteDance (TikTok’s parent company).
Launched by Inshorts, the Public App contains latest locality updates for your area with jobs, classifieds, short videos etc. Interestingly, the app is already being used by many government officials, authorities and journalists to have a better connect with their locality.
“Homegrown location-based social network Public App has secured Rs 300 crore in funding from A91 Partners with participation from existing investors, the company announced on Wednesday.
Launched by short news aggregator Inshorts in 2019, Public earlier raised Rs 260 crore in funding led by Addition, along with SIG and Tanglin Venture Partners six months ago.”
- Businessinsider.in (Mar 2021)
Founded by IIT alumnis Mayank Bhangadia, Avinash Saxena and Kaushal Shubhan in 2013, the app started as a fashion app was turned into a social media video-sharing app in 2017. It was acquired by InMobi in Nov 2019. The developers say that it’s not the same as TikTok as it does not cash in on trends by having lip-synced short videos on the platform.
Roposo was sued by T-series in Aug 2020 for alleged copyright infringement. Also, it feels ironic to me that the company believes the ban didn’t make them famous. They have been around since 2013; it indeed actually took them a TikTok ban to get the recognition though, right?
“Roposo, a leading short-video platform in India, was launched in 2014. While it already had over 50 million downloads on Google Play Store, another 40 million users downloaded the app in the next two months after the TikTok ban.
However, the Bangalore-based social video platform doesn't think the entire credit goes to the ban.
According to Bikash Chowdhury, chief marketing officer of Glance, the parent company of Roposo, the application was already at the number one spot on the Google Play Store in the social app category in mid-June.”
- The Economic Times (Sept 2020)
Recent funding: In December 2020, Glance (part of InMobi which owns Roposo) raised $145 million from Google and Mithril Capital (Peter Thiel’s investment firm) according to VCCircle.
It was founded in 2019 and currently has over 68 lakh monthly active users, as of Jan 2021. Though the number is less than its rivals, the founder Varun Saxena believes they’ll get closer to what Tiktok was in the upcoming months and it’ll be a key focus area for them during the next 6 to 12 months. He also said that it takes years to build a predictive model as ByteDance did with TikTok, as reported by Livemint.
“The platform witnessed the highest traffic on June 30 this year (post Tiktok ban), and the highest number of content pieces shares happened on September 19 (inaugural day of IPL) and November 14 (Diwali), the report said.
In 2020, Bolo Indya witnessed steep growth in the number of short video content creators as the number jumped from 75,000 at the start of the year to over 2.7 million at present.
More than 90,000 short video content creators on Bolo Indya crossed 2.5 lakh followers while over 750 have more than 10 lakh followers. Maximum followers for a creator stood at 2.4 million in 2020.”
- The Economic Times (Dec 2020)
Funding stats: As of March 2021, Bolo Indya app has raised $400,000 led by Infection Point Ventures, with existing investment from Eagle 10 Ventures also participating, according to a report by YourStory.
The apps name immediately reminds everyone of the most common phrase used by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his addresses to the country - “Mitron!”
Mitron always made the headlines because of being a direct competitor with TikTok. Its marketing aggressively pushed it as a “Bharat ka Aatmanirbhar app” (India’s own self-reliant app) over the chinese app TikTok. It worked, as a chunk of TikTok’s userbase started moving to Mitron app. But the app experienced a great spike in userbase when TikTok got banned in June 2020.
Mitron app was always surrounded by controversies, and they were continuously in limelight.
In June 2020, the app got removed from the Google Play Store, with Google stating it violated policies. The developers said that this happened because of not having a proper mechanism to flag content. They fixed the problems and the app was up again in a few days.
The app also faced flack over how the developers purchased the app’s source code from a Pakistan-based software company. They denied the accusations, stating they purchased from Envato and it’s a global marketplace.
9Unicorns announced on Thursday to have invested in MitronTV, a short video sharing application. Nexus Venture Partners led the $5-million funding round in August and 3one4 Capital led the immediately preceding INR 2 crore pre-seed round in July.
- Entrepreneur (Nov 2020)
Tier-2 & Tier-3 Advantage 🤳
According to management research company Redseer, the desi short-video apps, have reached almost 97% of the once table-topper TikTok’s user base --- in just under a year after the Chinese app was banned by the government.
Redseer said Indian short-form apps have managed to poach into 65-70% of TikTok subscribers (primarily influencers) and have added another 30-35% of new users in the past year.
“Moj has been a strong gainer across consumer and business metrics, as compared to the last quarter. Its growth has largely been driven by regional language markets, especially in the southern Indian states. Roposo on the other hand has shown strong performance in Tier 1 cities compared to the smaller ones. MX Takatak leads the market in the net promoter score (NPS) in metro cities. The platform has held challenges and hashtag events similar to TikTok, to gain market share, explains said the report.
According to the study, Josh leads both on influencer and user-end, driven by strong performance in the Hindi belt and Tier 2 cities.
Josh App scores higher on the NPS primarily due to increased satisfaction (47 percent) among Tier-II users, primarily from India's Hindi belt. Moj, does well in the Bharat belt, with the highest levels of satisfaction (51%) in Tier II+ cities and second-best (38%) in Tier I cities. In metro cities, MX Takatak achieves the highest level of satisfaction (38%) among competitors. While Roposo performs excellently in Tier I+ cities (achieving close to 30% NPS), metro users are only 11 percent satisfied.
The user base of Short-form videos like JOSH, Moj, MXTakaTak is moving from the middle of the internet funnel towards the top.
- Techradar (Apr 2021)
Why Are They Performing So Well? 🏆
Breaking The Language Barrier
Language barriers are one of the biggest barriers build between the users and the apps for Tier-2 & Tier-3 cities. The new Indian short-video apps fixed it by providing content in your own language. I don’t know about everyone, but I would love to watch videos in my own language wherever possible. Your language has been dedicated to a new section in many of these new apps, so people feel welcomed and not discouraged.
English and Hindi aren’t the only languages anymore from which you can choose with these apps.
I might struggle with English, but I definitely won’t struggle with my mother tongue if I were to create content. These apps have made everyone feel included. You can truly be yourself with your own language, and there would be people available to appreciate your content because they too understand your language.
India has the world’s cheapest internet, thanks to Mukesh Ambani’s Jio. I can get the cheapest pack which will get me 1GB/day for 28 days. Remember, many villages and towns still have irregular supplies of water and electricity, so we cannot have high hopes on broadband to cover them. With cheap mobile data, a majority of Tier-2 and Tier-3 city people are now online. All you need is a smartphone and internet to get started with any of the above-mentioned apps, and all these people have helped exploding the MUAs of these apps!
The “Made in India” Sentiment
We all know Indians and their love for the motherland. We are sensitive people, driven by feelings and everyone has soft spot for the country in their heart. Why would I use a chinese app? It comes from a place that does not respect my country. The government shares our feelings and banned over 100 chinese apps last year.
This gives people every reason why they should use “Made in India” apps. It’s not just a mere keyword (even though it’s being overused as one), it’s a sentiment which drives patriotism and downloads for all these apps. It’s also ironic while many of these apps call themselves “Made in India”, they have been backed by chinese companies.
The “Made in India” sentiment works across all categories of apps. We have an Indian Twitter alternative “Koo” was endorsed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It raised $30 million funding last month and is currently being used as an alternative by the Nigerian Government since they banned Twitter in their country.
One of the most important reasons is of course the ban of TikTok, which benefitted every competitor in the scene.
Some Stats 📊
Here is a bar graph of some of these app downloads as of March 2021:
Yeah, the downloads are huge. but the MAUs (Monthly active users) are insane!
These apps have crazy retention rates because of how addictive they are. They have managed to become a separate social media app while people wondered if there would be anything beyond our traditional Facebook and Instagram. But it’s here, and it’s absolutely killing the market!
The Future 📈
The ultimate king TikTok has been dethroned forever. It’s not coming back. Their kingdom has been divided into small provinces, and different people have taken up the duty to rule and to become what the ultimate king once was.
I personally believe the next big social network is Clubhouse and people will create alternatives, and a new battle will commence. But still, they would still not be able to make the impact that TikTok did.