India banned TikTok without warning. 200 million people learned to live without it

India banned TikTok without warning. 200 million people learned to live without it - Business - News

Surviving and Thriving in a TikTok-Less World: Lessons from India

As TikTok fans in the United States express concern over potential access restrictions to the popular social media app, it’s important for them to look towards countries that have navigated similar waters. India is a prime example of a nation that has adapted and thrived in the absence of TikTok.

On June 29, 2020, the Indian government imposed a ban on TikTok and several other Chinese apps following a border clash between India and China that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead. The decision, which came without warning, sent shockwaves through the country’s massive TikTok user base of over 200 million people (170 million in the US). But what many didn’t realize was that this ban would eventually create new opportunities and platforms for content creation and commercial ventures.

India’s Unexpected Move: The Backstory

The Indian government’s decision to ban TikTok and other Chinese apps was met with widespread surprise. However, it wasn’t the first time Western nations praised such a move. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had previously welcomed India’s decision, stating that it would “boost India’s sovereignty.”

The Aftermath: Creativity and Innovation

Although the ban came as a shock, Indian TikTok users didn’t have to wait long for alternatives. In just a week, Meta-owned Instagram launched its TikTok copycat, Instagram Reels, in India, while Google introduced YouTube Shorts. Homegrown alternatives like MX Taka Tak and Moj also began to gain popularity, attracting significant investments.

However, local startups ultimately proved unable to compete with the reach and financial resources of American tech giants. According to independent findings from consulting firm Oxford Economics, YouTube’s creative ecosystem contributed roughly $2 billion to the Indian economy in 2022.

Content Creators Adapt: The Rise of Reels and Shorts

Indian content creators swiftly moved their old TikTok content to Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts. Some influencers even saw significant growth, with up to seven Reels per day resulting in four to five million subscribers a year.

However, not every user or creator was able to build a substantial following on these platforms. Clyde Fernandes, executive director of artist management at Opraahfx, noted that while some creators thrived, others struggled to find their footing.

National Security Concerns: A Shared Issue

US officials and lawmakers have long expressed concerns over TikTok’s potential data collection practices, with some fearing that the Chinese government could force ByteDance to hand over user data. Cybersecurity experts argue that these concerns remain largely hypothetical, but Indian experts caution that the ban hasn’t resulted in a safer digital landscape.

“I am not so sure removal of TikTok makes a dent in the cybersecurity threat landscape,” said Vivan Sharan, partner at Delhi-based tech policy consulting firm Koan Advisory Group. “Unless there is a significant step change in user awareness about the software on their phones or what they download from the open internet, this isn’t likely to change.”

Propaganda and Misinformation: An Ongoing Battle

Both India and the US have grappled with content-related challenges, such as propaganda, misinformation, and deepfakes, in the absence of TikTok. Sharan emphasized that while the app may have contributed to these issues, addressing them requires more than just banning specific platforms.

In conclusion, India’s experience demonstrates that a TikTok-less world is not only possible but can also lead to innovation and growth opportunities for creators and platforms. While concerns over data privacy, national security, and content remain valid, it’s essential to remember that these challenges persist regardless of any individual app or platform.