Aishwarya Ramesh and Abid Hussain Barlaskar
Points of View

Who will fill the void left behind by TikTok in the lives of consumers, creators?

TikTok is among 59 Chinese apps banned in India. What does this mean for social media users, who used the app for entertainment during lockdown?

ByteDance-owned TikTok has been banned, along with 58 other Chinese apps in India. During the COVID-induced lockdown, the app’s popularity had skyrocketed. A BARC India and Nielsen report released in March, after a month of lockdown illustrates that people have increased their time spent on Chatting (+23 per cent) and Social Networking (+25 per cent) apps. Almost all social networking apps - including TikTok have seen significant increases not only in time spent /user/week but also in the sessions/ user/ week.

A screenshot from the BARC India and Nielsen report
A screenshot from the BARC India and Nielsen report

TikTok as a platform has more content creators than others owing to the ease of shooting, editing and creating content. Brands were also beginning to show interest in advertising on the platform - putting their money behind in-feed ads and hashtag challenges. To understand how the ban will impact creators and consumers, alike, afaqs! spoke to four industry professionals. Edited excerpts:

Mohit Joshi, MD – India, Havas Media Group

Roposo from InMobi is the immediate (TikTok) substitute. The platform is already gaining traction with promotion with (the tag) #AtmaNirbhar India. Roposo leads, with 65 million downloads. Around two million users come to the platform every hour. They’re viewing 25 million videos per hour. The platform has seen 20x increase in new users in the last four months, 500 per cent increase in content creation, and 700k installs in the last couple of weeks.

Mohit Joshi
Mohit Joshi

We also have Chingari and Mitron, which are seeing a lot of traction. Chingari claimed (approx.) 10,000 users per minute on its app, and three million videos were swiped/watched per hour. Also, 26 million videos were watched in 24 hours, with 90,000 new users joining the app per hour.

"As far as consumers are concerned, there is enough content on the web/OTT (space) to easily take up their time."
Mohit Joshi, MD – India, Havas Media Group

Besides this, there is news of Zee5 releasing its own app HiPi, and there could be more launches in this highly engaging space.

As far as consumers are concerned, there is enough content on the web/OTT (space) to easily take up their time. Recent data suggests that many consumers are shifting to other video platforms. Many TikTok influencers have also shifted to Roposo. (Roposo has seen around four million content creators migrating to the platform in last two days.)

Hari Krishnan, executive director - TBWA

Although it has a large user base, the content creator to consumer ratio for TikTok is almost 50:50. It is largely a creator and uploader network. That is, almost one in every two TikTok users is a creator. It’s not the case with platforms like YouTube and Facebook on which a large proportion of users are passive watchers.

Hari Krishnan
Hari Krishnan

While one had heard of Chingari and Zee5's upcoming platforms, there is no other creators’ medium of scale like TikTok at the moment. How the other two home-grown platforms will gain from TikTok's loss, well, only time will tell...

"While one had heard of Chingari and Zee5's upcoming platforms, there is no other creators’ medium of scale like TikTok at the moment."
Hari Krishnan, executive director - TBWA

Currently, there seems to be no replacement, as TikTok was enabling the creator in every step of creation - with both the right tools and a huge audience. It literally spoonfed both the creators and the consumers. There were close matches like Likee and Helo, which too have been banned.

In platforms like Smule, which is a karaoke app, the user actually has to sing along and not just lip-sync. Even popular platforms like Facebook and Instagram appeal to certain user profiles, and have prerequisites.

As per some studies and observations, over 30 per cent of TikTok’s users can’t be found on other social media (platforms). Almost half of them can’t be found on OTT platforms. The closest duplication of users is with Instagram. This was, in a way, the only app that was enabling the sprouting creative potential of an average Indian.

Shradha Agarwal, COO – Grapes Digital

TikTok, as a platform, is more geared towards creators, than consumers. The app is the digital equivalent of watching a movie like ‘Housefull’, where you don’t have to think, or apply your mind too much. What has worked well for TikTok is the ease with which a person can create content.

Shradha Agarwal
Shradha Agarwal

It’s not just the tools, but the themes, too. People could create ‘copycat’ content – mirroring dance moves, dialogues, and they could edit and put it together with ease. This has encouraged people to create content, and this is why TikTok, as a platform, has more creators on it than any other social medium out there.

It’s not just those creators (who expressed themselves without any barriers on the platform), but brands that are feeling the pinch. A hashtag challenge costs brands anywhere between Rs 35 lakh and Rs 38 lakh. So, the ban is costing brands, too.

"People could create ‘copycat’ content – mirroring dance moves, dialogues, and they could edit and put it together with ease. This has encouraged people to create content."
Shradha Agarwal, COO, Grapes Digital

From a content consumption standpoint, TikTok is an extremely popular app in India. There are people who have theorised that the app is more popular in South India than it is in the northern parts of the country because of the fact that one does not need to dress, or look a certain way, to gain popularity on the app (although TikTok denies this claim).

It’s also a well-known fact that on TikTok, people view more content, as the videos are short and play in a loop if no action is taken on the screen. In recent times, TikTok has seen ‘Edutok’, and a boom in cooking videos, too. So, it isn’t necessarily limited to entertainment right now, but its format definitely makes for easy viewing.

As per various sources, the male to female ratio of the user base is 8:2. Users aged between 18 and 24 years make up majority of the base. It is still popular largely in the top (metro) cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, and Jaipur.

Pragati Rana, GM, mcgarrybowen India

TikTok is a shift, a behavioural upgrade in the life of a social media consumer. It makes a consumer into a creator. It is like a stage where you have to perform, and the world is watching you. You are three-dimensional, and the limelight is on you. A right, before TikTok, reserved only for celebrities, or famous icons.

To fuel that, TikTok gave you all kinds of tools like music, dialogues, effects, filters. And with it, the freedom to completely do what you like. Recreate a funny locked-in couple banter, or show your pro-like dance moves, or propose to the girl of your dreams with a Shah Rukh Khan like proposal. And you can do it with absolutely anyone. With your girlfriend, 80-year-old grandma, dad, or just by yourself.

Pragati Rana
Pragati Rana

There’s no nepotism, no privilege, no lack of access stopping you here. If you think you can entertain, all you need to do is prove that you can. That’s what TikTok has done for its creators.

In the immediate future, it looks like that most of these creators will move to Instagram, as some of them have already started doing. But in the long run, platforms like Chingari that almost mirror TikTok and its functionality, stand to benefit.

Instagram is fundamentally different from TikTok. On Instagram, you primarily express, while on TikTok, you primarily entertain. What you could do on TikTok is not easily replaceable by what you do on Instagram.

Having said that, I don’t think the ban on TikTok is going to last forever. TikTok has a way of clawing back into the game. Let's sit tight and watch what happens next!

"Instagram is fundamentally different from TikTok. On Instagram, you primarily express, while on TikTok, you primarily entertain."
Pragati Rana, GM, Happy mcgarrybowen