Neha Alawadhi

TikTok parent ByteDance plans to set up international data centre in India

The company has set an internal target of 6-18 months to set up the data centre.

China-based ByteDance, the parent company of popular short video application TikTok, will set up a data centre in India, becoming one of the first social media companies to do so in the country, the company said in a statement shared exclusively with Business Standard.

TikTok parent ByteDance plans to set up international data centre in India

"India is one of our strongest markets and we are happy to be part of the mainframe of Digital India in 15 languages. Since the launch of our platforms in India, we have stored the data of our Indian users at industry-leading third party data centres in the US and Singapore...We now believe the time has come to take the next big leap," the statement read.

The company has set an internal target of 6-18 months to set up the data centre, Business Standard has learnt. The plan is part of the $1 billion ByteDance has recently committed to the Indian market over the next three years.

The move is also significant because of the Indian government's ongoing focus on data localisation, as well as the increasing number of issues that TikTok is facing in the country.

There has also been increasing pressure on other large social media firms, most of them US-based, including Facebook, Google and Twitter to set up local data centres here, even as the proposed Personal Data Protection Bill, which will clarify the Indian stand on this issue, is yet to be tabled in the Parliament.

"The company is also showing its openness to the as yet under consideration data protection law," said a person familiar with the development. Industry has largely been batting for not mandating local data storage as it will impact cross border data flows and established business models.

Last week, the Indian government asked TikTok to answer several questions about its operations in India after some groups objected to the some of the content being uploaded there. Business Standard also reported that as many as five states were considering a ban on the app.

In a short period of time, ByteDance has managed to onboard over 200 million users on TikTok in India, helped by its regional focus and artificial intelligence algorithms that serve very personalised content to users that keeps them hooked.

It is also targeting 100 million users for its language content platform Helo by the end of this year.

"It is still mapping out the locations and other details where the data centre will be set up, but is certainly looking for places with great infrastructure, access to high quality fibre connectivity, and long term leases on land," said the person quoted above.

The Beijing-headquartered ByteDance has made waves for being the first Chinese company to make it big outside of its home turf. It also helps that ByteDance is now the world's most valuable startup, valued at $75 billion.

At the heart of what ByteDance has done is having figured out an algorithm that serves users a feed of content that keeps them hooked and also keeps them coming back for more. The company has several apps which combined hit 1 billion users worldwide.

While TikTok is undoubtedly driving the growth of its parent company, the fact that it is investing heavily in the India market shows that the company means serious business in the country.

ByteDance has also consistently maintained that it monitors both its platforms in India for content and employs over 500 people in the country.

Improving content quality

Last week, the Centre has also issued notices to social media platforms TikTok and its sister app Helo both a set of 24 questions threatening to ban these apps if it does not receive appropriate response.

Action from Ministry of Electronics and IT (Meity) followed a complaint by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) to the Prime Minister.

TikTok and Helo in a joint statement said they have plans to invest $1 billion over the period of next three years to develop technology infrastructure and owns responsibility of local community.

ByteDance has also been working with the Indian government by making efforts to bring ministries and departments on TikTok to promote various initiatives.

Under its Tiktok for good initiative, the company has launched a slew of campaigns such as #tiktoktravel, #edutok #thegoodtouch targeted at getting more meaningful content on the platform. Besides this, TikTok also announced a partnership with National Skill Development Corporation to promote skill in India.

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