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This article was first published 3 years ago  » Business » Digital Aatmanirbhar: Indian apps gear up to face the challenge

Digital Aatmanirbhar: Indian apps gear up to face the challenge

By Surajeet Das Gupta
July 14, 2020 10:29 IST
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Beside RIL's Jio Switch and Jio Browser, smaller Indian app companies who have been overwhelmed by TikTok are again seeing a big rush - even though till the second week of June they might not have been even listed in the top 100 apps in the country.


Illustration: Dominic Xavier/

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently launching the “Digital India Aatmanirbhar Bharat Innovate Challenge” to develop and promote Indian apps that can compete in the world, the new strategy seems to be showing results already.

The move comes hard on the heels of the government banning 59 Chinese apps on June 29.


They include popular names like TikTok, Helo, UC Browser, and Shareit.

With consumers scrambling for “make in India” alternatives, these companies are seeing a huge surge in downloads.

Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) is one of the key beneficiaries of the move, with two of its apps which competed with the Chinese seeing a massive surge in their downloads.

Jio Browser earlier used to compete with Chinese-made UC Browser.

And Jio Switch, a file transfer and share app, had been locking horns with another Chinese app Shareit, which of course was far ahead in the game.

From being ranked at a low 139th by App Annie (based on Google Play downloads) on the list for the most popular apps in the application category and at 14 among the apps in the category of tools, it has seen a massive turnaround.

Within less than a week, on July 4, the app went up sharply in the pecking order, hitting rank 54th in the applications category and number three slot among tools.

And it also entered for the first time in the coveted list of App Annie’s top 100 most downloaded apps across categories with rank number 88.

The story was repeated in Jio Browser too.

On June 29, the app was ranked 199th in the application category and 14 in the communication category.

But on July 4th it had hit rank 85 amongst applications and 7 in the communication category, filling in the yawning gap left by the ban of UC Browser which before its ban was at number 77 in the overall app ranking locking horns with Google Chrome.

But Reliance is not the only beneficiary of the Chinese app ban and the new push by Modi to build desi apps.

Smaller Indian app companies who have been overwhelmed by TikTok - the video creating and sharing app which dominated this segment, are again seeing a big rush - even though till the second week of June they might not have been even listed in the top 100 apps in the country.

According to App Annie data, on July 4, four of the top six most downloadable apps across all categories based on Google Play are all “made in India” alternatives for the banned of TikTok.

The Chinese app, which had a stranglehold in this market, reigned at number two slot, just behind Aarogya Setu in May, based on App Annie.

The four alternative apps include Roposo which was launched in 2014, Chingari, Share-Chat and the recently launched Mitron (April 18th).

The US based SnapChat which had taken on TikTok, but had lost much of its lustre, was back again in India in the 19th spot.

However, all of them have seen a phenomenal increase in their popularity within days of the ban.

For instance, Roposo was at 114 in the pecking order on June 20th but substantially improved its ranking on 29th June to number 29 because of the growing move to ban Chinese products after the bloody border skirmishes between the two countries.

But it took them just the ban and a few days to hit the top slot.

Share Chat was ranked 75 on the day of the ban, but in just in a few days has already hit the number six slot.

The story is similar for Chingari which also was seeing a marked improvement in its ranking eventually to hit the number 2 slot. Despite controversies which led to it being temporarily delisted from Google play and questions on its ownership Mitron has caught the imagination of consumers within less than three months of its launch.

What is however interesting is that they have to tread a long and arduous path to get size.

Because none of the alternatives have the sheer following of consumers like TikTok has in India - it had over 200 million active users.

In comparison Roposo has 65 million users, Chingari and Mitron have 10 million downloads and Share Chat 100 million.

Some new players like Zee has also joined to bandwagon quietly with the launch of HiPi.

But with the government backing them, that could be much easier.

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Surajeet Das Gupta in New Delhi
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