Race hots up to occupy the video app throne left vacant by TikTok

Homegrown players like Moj and Roposo have benefitted from TikTok's ouster

A mobile user browses through the Chinese owned video-sharing 'Tik Tok' app on a smartphone | AFP (File) A mobile user browses through the Chinese owned video-sharing 'Tik Tok' app on a smartphone | AFP

A government ban may have put an end to the reign of TikTok, but in a world where video is killing it in every possible way, a new cutthroat race is on. The prize? India's video app throne TikTok was forced out of unceremoniously in June.

The aftermath of the Galwan clash between soldiers of India and China has been a direct hit on TikTok, the app that has dominated the short video space in India over the past few years. TikTok had captured the hearts of gen-next by storm. At the last count, before both Apple and Google PlayStore removed it as per the govt order, TikTok had 60 crore downloads in India, forming 30 per cent of its total global base. Its parent company, ByteDance, has a similar Chinese language app domestically for Mainland China, while TikTok gets its maximum user base from India and the US.

The forced retreat has sparked off a new conquest amongst Indian, as well as international players to fill in the void left by TikTok. With some of the lowest data charges in the world, mobile internet usage in India has skyrocketed in recent years, with the number of users predicted to cross 75 crore by 2022. Presently, an average six hours is spent on accessing internet by Indian users, and as much as 65 per cent of it is video. Between the opportunity for advertising, promotion, e-commerce and the amount of data mining it spawns, it is no surprise why everyone, from brands and marketeers to business tycoons, believe this to be the biggest thing to drive commerce in the coming years.

And, the one who holds the video crown will have the sway, some analysts believe. Presently, the ones who've benefitted the most from the sudden ouster of TikTok have been homegrown players like Moj and Roposo. Moj is from ShareChat, the very desi social media app whose USP is its vernacular presence. Reports say in just the week after the TikTok ban, it amassed one crore downloads.

Roposo, an Indian startup short video app, too got lucky similarly – it passed five crore downloads after the TikTok app ban. It has been around longer than Moj, and claims the No.1 spot in the social category on Google PlayStore. “Our mission is to provide the largest talent platform that is truly Indian,” said Mayank Bhangadia, co-founder of Roposo, while Naveen Tewari, founder and CEO of InMobi group which owns Roposo added, “As the number one short video app...Roposo is very well positioned to lead this transformation in India.”

Another player, Trell, scored 1.2 crore downloads in the five days after TikTok's ban. Said Pulkit Agarwal, co-founder of Trell, “Indian internet startups can (now) grow faster and build a superior experience for the consumers in the long term which was being capped by the established players in the past. They use to come with advanced technology/algorithms, experienced management team, and very heavy capital injection in the Indian market which made it very difficult for Indian startups to cope up.”

But the field is set to get crowded in the coming days. Media giant Times of India has come up with its MX Taka Tak, while even food delivery aggregator Zomato has been experimenting with short videos on its platform. Instagram, which had started seeing TikTok as a threat, is not going to be lulled into complacence just because the threat is gone. It wasted no time in launching in India 'Reels', an in-app feature for short videos, with tools for filters and adding background music. Many believe it is high time YouTube, the big daddy on the video scene, tried getting nimble to grab this new opportunity.

Then, of course, there is Mukesh Ambani. Flush with funds after his spree of tie-ups all through the lockdown, it is now time to make Jio truly larger than life, straddling anything from telecom services to content to retail to e-commerce and financial services. There is a line of thinking that a presence on the video content side, and the invaluable user engagement and analytics all that data will provide, is simply too good an opportunity to pass up. India's hinterland offers great opportunities for further mobile internet and video penetration, and a power play to become the 'super app' that India goes to for its online needs in the future is very much up Ambani's street.