Indian alternatives to Chinese video sharing apps see surge, but brands choose to wait and watch

  • | Monday | 13th July, 2020

Even as the banning of short-video sharing platform TikTok — as part of the government’s move to ban 59 apps with Chinese links — has led to a surge in numbers for its Indian alternatives, the users depending on the app for their livelihood have seen a jolt as they transition to these alternatives. For instance, short video app Roposo, which is owned by the InMobi Group, claimed to be the top app in this category with over 75 million downloads within a week. Similarly, another alternative BoxEngage saw a 10-time surge in active user numbers within 24 hours of TikTok being banned.

New Delhi: Even as the banning of short-video sharing platform TikTok — as part of the government’s move to ban 59 apps with Chinese links — has led to a surge in numbers for its Indian alternatives, the users depending on the app for their livelihood have seen a jolt as they transition to these alternatives. For instance, short video app Roposo, which is owned by the InMobi Group, claimed to be the top app in this category with over 75 million downloads within a week. Similarly, another alternative BoxEngage saw a 10-time surge in active user numbers within 24 hours of TikTok being banned.

By July 1, video-streaming platform Zee5 too had announced the launch of its own short video platform, HiPi. A similar app, Chingari said it had recorded 148 million videos being watched on its platform in a single day, a scale it used to manage only every 22 days before the ban. International social media giant Facebook-owned Instagram too rolled out its short-video platform Reels for users in India, within days of the Chinese apps being banned. The number of views and videos on these apps notwithstanding, it is likely to be very difficult for users on these apps to convert fan following into monetary gains, experts said, as most advertisers and brands are in a wait and watch mode.

“TikTok advertising revenue has witnessed a 50 per cent growth in the past year. However, it is yet to take a significant share of the country’s Rs 17,000 crore digital advertising market, which is still dominated by Google and Facebook,” Aparna Gupta, managing director of digital media agency Evolve Digitas, said. Apps such as Tiktok, Helo and other short video sharing platforms had been a marketer’s delight as they had a vast reach even in a limited budget, she said. “We had various options of customised bundled offers which included home screen ad, hashtag promotions as well as influencer outreach, costing anything between Rs 5-10 lakh,” Gupta explains.

These apps were also favourites among global brands such as PepsiCo and Reckitt Benckiser, and homegrown ones such as Pantaloons and Oyo. Both Pepsi and Reckitt Benckiser, which which makes Dettol had gained substantially from the platform, garnering views in billions for their video campaigns. An executive at a cab-hailing company told The Indian Express that the firm had planned TikTok campaigns for the launch of its services in tier-II and tier-III towns in states like Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, etc. “Influencers on TikTok have a significant reach in smaller towns and they also come at a lower cost than celebrities,” the executive said, adding that the cost of hiring an Instagram influencer was over 10 times higher than that of a TikTok influencer. In addition, the TikTok influencer’s reach would be much more targeted.

On June 29, Gaurav Jain, a 25-year-old digital media agency executive from Faridabad, had achieved a major milestone as he hit a landmark 1 million followers on TikTok. His happiness, however, was short lived as the app got banned later that night. “I can tell you TikTok was going to be the next big thing. It was bringing many monetisation options (for content creators) and for brands as well. Any TikTok user with good engagement on his channel could earn somewhere around Rs 40,000 to Rs 100,000” he said.

Jain is not the only one who had managed to make a more than decent living from brand promotions on TikTok and other such social media apps. On TikTok, the most-followed Indian is 16-year old Mumbai-based Riyaz Aly, with nearly 43 million followers. “In all overall media planning mix, internet advertising was usually catered to an urban, male, English-reading audience. It was a top-down approach. TikTok bloomed from the other way. Internet consumption is happening in all regional languages and one does necessarily have to know how to read to use internet. Apps like TikTok, therefore, came in the focus,” a Bhopal-based advertising professional said.

Other advertisers, however, say there will be little difference in overall planning as most brands in India were still testing waters on TikTok advertising due to “image issues”. “Brands were still warming up to TikTok. There was little to no adoption policy-wise because brands were wary, majorly because of the audience such apps cater to, which they tend to believe do not necessarily have the spending power,” another Mumbai-based advertiser said, asking not to be named.



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