Among the millions of Indians in thrall of TikTok is Infosys chairman Nandan Nilekani

Making a point.
Making a point.
Image: Benedikt von Loebell
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Among the millions swooning over TikTok in India is one of the country’s top technocrats.

Yesterday (Oct. 03), at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in New Delhi, Nandan Nilekani, co-founder and chairman of India’s second-largest IT company, Infosys, put the spotlight briefly on the wildly popular short video-sharing platform, calling it an “amazing phenomenon.”

“If you had asked me five years back, if there would be a Chinese social media app that would become so dominating, I would have said no way,” Nilekani said during a panel discussion at WEF’s India Economic Summit. “The fact that they (TikTok) have come from nowhere and have become a massive platform for millions of users is a great achievement.”

TikTok claims to have over 200 million users in India, of which 120 million are active every month.

“The kind of capital Bytedance (that owns TikTok)—which itself is worth $175 billion—can put in TikTok is quite big. But there are good Indian startups in social media as well,” he said, appreciating how apps such as ShareChat had expanded into regional languages in India, which could potentially make them the next big thing.

Nilekani also listed out possible ways in which companies can leverage India’s ongoing data revolution, and ensure an inclusive growth amid the ever-changing technology landscape.

“Reliance Jio, which dramatically lowered the cost of data, has completely changed the game. Now everyone can watch videos and can access the internet and those who saw this shift including TikTok are able to capitalise on the same much better,” he said. “The goal should be, how do we leverage this reach, access, and lower data cost to get people better healthcare, education or better jobs. From the entertainment aspect it is growing, but from a social aspect, we should focus on how we make this work to improve the life quality of billions of people.”

The WEF discussion, From Digital Divide to Digital Dividends, was organised in partnership with Quartz India, and included Wipro chairman Rishad Premji and Singapore’s deputy prime minister Heng Swee Keat. It was moderated by Diksha Madhok, editor and director of Platform, Quartz India.