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Ban on Chinese apps: Will Indian players' dream run continue?

By Sai Ishwar & Samreen Ahmad
July 02, 2020 17:39 IST
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The idea behind starting Chingari is not to build a TikTok clone but to position itself as a super app for India like WeChat.

The ban on TikTok is proving to be a ‘demonetisation moment’ for desi social apps like Chingari.

Its co-founder Sumit Ghosh has had sleepless nights ever since the government banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok.

 

He is trying to find ways to equip the app so that it can handle the unprecedented and sudden spike in traffic.

Chingari is adding up to 600,000 users per hour, crossing a total user base of 7.5 million.

Ghosh said the app has a creation tool, which is as good as TikTok’s, hence a lot of influencers are moving to their platform.

The idea behind starting Chingari, he says, is not to build a TikTok clone but to position itself as a super app for India like WeChat.

“We just wanted to penetrate the market with short videos, which have already taken off in India.

"We are now working on live streaming and chat functions, which will be rolled out soon,” said Ghosh.

The app, which also has a news feature, is hoping to close a Series-A round of funding next week.

Chingari has a reward point feature in which every time a content creator uploads a video, he earns points that can be encashed later through partner UPI platforms.

Experts say top content creators and influencers make between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 5 lakh per post on platforms like TikTok, and such influencers can have at least four deals a month.

"In the short term, many (content creators) would have lost their livelihoods.

"Now they have realised and won’t keep all their eggs in one basket," said Rahul Singh, chief executive and co-founder at Bengaluru-based influential marketing firm Winkl.

Sequoia-funded vlogging platform Trell has witnessed over 1 million downloads since the imposition of bans on the Chinese apps, while it has on-boarded nearly 150,000 content creators.

The app’s users can share or view experiences and reviews in categories such as cooking, movie reviews, beauty, and skincare through videos of not more than five minutes.

“Content creators are going through disruption in terms of survival as the Chinese platforms, brand collaborations, and followers have vanished,” said Pulkit Agarwal, co-founder, Trell.

"We are working on a crowd-sourced repository of content creators, who have been affected, as they are trying their best to migrate followers to other platforms."

The database of these content creators in India will be made public, and brands or other apps can get in touch with them.

This is similar to a database created for laid-off employees, Agarwal added.

Chingari is also building new tools for its users.

“If we build a tool to import all your TikTok content to Chingari, will you use it?

"As a user generated content, you own it and can move it anywhere you want,” Ghosh tweeted.

Inmobi-backed Roposo, which has witnessed 10 million downloads within 24 hours of the ban, is enhancing features on its camera stack in terms of getting new filters and editing tools.

“We have signed brand partnerships with an e-commerce site and health care and fitness start-ups for hosting Roposo on their platforms for marketing and contests,” said Mayank Bhangadia, founder, Roposo.

Unlike the Chinese apps, on Roposo, content creators receive a coin every time a user views their content that can be later exchanged for money.

Twitter-backed ShareChat claims to have recorded 500,000 downloads every hour to cross over 15 million downloads since the ban was announced.

With this sudden growth, the company might work on product improvisation to increase user stickiness.

The company is already playing with the idea of a TikTok like short video app called Moj, which is tailor-made for Indian internet users.

The app has seen over 10,000 downloads so far.

ShareChat, which had shared a confrontational past with ByteDance, the owner of TikTok and Helo leading to court battles, has already seen more than 100,000 posts supporting the government’s move towards banning Chinese applications.

“We invite creators across India to ShareChat and take part in the endless possibilities it offers.

"ShareChat plans to provide a fun and exciting experience to creators promoting talent across the country,” said Farid Ahsan, chief operating officer and co-founder, ShareChat.

Another homegrown app Khabri, which provides audio content to users, is giving monetary incentives to users through its Creators Programme at various levels.

The app has seen a jump of 80 per cent in daily downloads after the ban on Chinese apps by Indian authorities.

While the Indian alternatives are seeing a huge surge in usage, experts believe their dream run could be short-lived if the government decides to overturn the ban.

"It is difficult for the Indian players to replicate the ecosystem of celebrities, influencers, content creators, and advertisers that these Chinese apps especially TikTok have created, without strong-venture capital backing (supporting the Indian apps)," said Singh of Winkl.

Sudden rush to grab users

Chingari is working on live streaming and chat to be rolled out soon

Userbase: 7.5 million

Roposo is adding new filters and editing tools

Userbase: Nearly 100 million

Trell is creating a crowd-sourced repository of content creators

Userbase: 30 million

ShareChat may work on product improvisation to increase user stickiness

Userbase: 150 million

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Sai Ishwar & Samreen Ahmad in Mumbai/Bengaluru
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