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A girl wearing a protective mask depicting the TikTok logo poses for a picture inside a slum in Mumbai
Reuters/Francis Mascarenhas
Who can break the spell?
PLAYING CATCH UP

The ban on TikTok hasn’t turned the fortunes of its made-in-India rivals

Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

Replacing TikTok is going to be a long and arduous journey for India’s homegrown apps.

Between June 29, when India banned a slew of Chinese apps, and July 4, little has changed for Sharechat, InMobi’s Roposo, Chingari, and Mitron, Indian apps that position themselves as “TikTok’s rivals,” data from Kalagato show.

Based on data collected from over 5 million smartphone users in India, the analytics firm said these Indian apps are still installed on far fewer smartphones than TikTok was before the ban.

This  muted popularity of Indian versions of TikTok is despite the fact that they have been going all out to woo users with new features, including filters, stickers, and more.

Some of these apps are also offering monetary rewards to onboard more users. For instance, Chingari, an app that shot to popularity right after TikTok was banned, is offering to pay music composers based on the reach of their song on the app. Chingari is also offering a revenue-sharing opportunity to composers.

Still, time spent on Chingari a sliver of the 50-plus minutes TikTok clocked. It’s similar for other made-in-India video-sharing apps.

Despite the glitches, Indians are curious about these apps.

Homegrown apps that have been around for some time now—Roposo and Sharechat—did witness daily active users tick up significantly. (Chingari and Mitron were recent additions without enough data points.) However, at the end of the first week of July, there’s still no match for TikTok’s 200 million users.

The open rate for these apps has gone up, mostly because former-TikTokers are testing the waters. However, they’re likely not diving straight in because they’re still assessing whether or not TikTok will make a comeback. After all, this is not the first time the ByteDance-owned app has had a run-in with the Indian authorities.

Many TikTokers have shifted attention to platforms like YouTube and Instagram instead of finding a 15-second video-sharing clone. The latter even seized the moment and started rolling out its “Reels” feature—its answer to Tiktok—to some users in India.

Meanwhile, TikTok’s numbers have dropped drastically across all metrics but have not hit zero yet likely because of users using VPNs. Also, enforcement takes time as the government reaches all internet service providers and telecom operators to blacklist each and every host-name and domain name linked with a particular application.

Users with TikTok installed can still “open” the app but instead of the feed, they see this message:

TikTok app
TikTok in India.

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