Bytedance to invest $1b in India despite TikTok court action

By Yang Kunyi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/4/22 19:43:41

An image of TikTok in India Photo: IC

India remains an attractive market for Chinese internet companies despite challenges in localization, as Beijing-based Bytedance plans to invest $1 billion in India over three years despite the country's recent ban on its short video platform TikTok, India's newspaper The Economic Times reported Friday.

According to the report, Bytedance is "very optimistic" despite its recent removal from Apple and Google's app stores in India, and it plans to double its headcount in India to 1,000 by December this year.

Liu Zhen, senior vice president of Corporate Development, Bytedance, said that the company "want(s) to do the right things" and is "very patient" with the Indian market, according to the report. 

The federal government of India sent a letter requesting Apple and Google to ban TikTok, according to an IT ministry official, Reuters reported on April 16. The move came after the Madras High Court on April 3 banned the app for allowing sexually explicit and pedophile-related content on its platform. 

However, according to Indian media reports, the ban could be lifted if the Madras High Court fails to decide on TikTok's appeal by Wednesday. 

Li Chao, an analyst from iResearch Consulting Group, told the Global Times on Monday that although the ban on TikTok is a blow to Bytedance, Indian cities, especially second- and third-tier ones, still have huge market potential and the $1 billion investment will be worth it if invested wisely.

"Second- and third-tier cities in India have huge populations, and unlike some first-tier Indian cities, they are not yet dominated by a single social media entity such as Facebook or Twitter," Li said. "That's where companies such as Bytedance are trying to maximize their market share."

India has become a large market for Chinese social media companies, including TikTok, SHAREit and Helo. According to estimates by the analytics firm Similar Web, India has 119 million TikTok users, accounting for 40 percent of Tiktok's global total of 500 million users. 

As in China, Bytedance is targeting areas with huge populations. Many Chinese companies, including TikTok and SHAREit, are making impressive progress replicating this strategy in India. 

"Many Chinese companies are looking at India as the next China," Liu Xiaoxue, an analyst in South Asia from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences told the Global Times Monday. "It is a country where market demand is growing but no company is dominating there."

Challenges remain for Bytedance's development in India that require more than just getting bigger.

"As demonstrated by India's ban on TikTok, the company must work hard on content moderation and comply with regulations when trying to localize its app," Li said. 

"India is an extremely diverse country in terms of its demographics, culture and languages. For example, more than 13 languages are commonly spoken in India, so Bytedance must be careful with localization so it can cater to different needs."

Newspaper headline: Bytedance to invest $1b in India, double staff

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