A year since TikTok ban: How homegrown apps successfully filled up content & business void

Over the past year, most of these desi apps have made inroads in the regional language speaking markets and recorded quick growth in active user count

e4m by Tasmayee Laha Roy
Updated: Jun 29, 2021 9:59 AM

A year ago on this day, the Indian government imposed a ban on TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps. But there has been no looking back for either content creators or marketers as home grown UGC (user generated content) apps quickly pulled up their socks to fill the void. From updating their tech stack to building ad tools, creating aggressive marketing strategies and focusing on user acquisition apps like ShareChat, Roposo, MX TakaTak, Chingari and others made the most of the ban, grew fast and how.

Growth in userbase

According to the FICCI-EY report 2021, user base on short format video platform apps have grown by 65% year-on-year in the last two years, apart from the typical short videos, investments into occupationally generated content like gym, music, art, cooking — instructional videos and live streams drove reach and time spent. “Today, we estimate over 50,000 creators have a following of over 100,000 each on short video platforms, democratizing the creation of content, with over 60% of audiences outside metros, regional content is driving short video,” said the report.

Over the past year, most of these apps made inroads in the regional language speaking markets and recorded quick growth in active users.  In fact, a report by RedSeer Consulting said that Indian short-form apps have successfully retained 67% of the TikTok era users and have onboarded around 30-35% new users over the past year.

Chingari for instance has 70 Mn downloads already. Then there is ShareChat. With over 160 million monthly active users, ShareChat (which also owns Moj, a short video entertainment app) garnered 120 million active users in less than a year. Another example is Roposo which has seen over 100 million downloads and is used by close to 1.2 million content creators. Most platforms have touched record numbers in terms of user base after the ban of TikTok in India.

But what contributed to the growth of these platforms?

Improved tech stack

According to Ankush Sachdeva, CEO and Cofounder, Moj, the most important factor in winning the short video market was their AI capabilities. “We have continued our investments in AI feed personalisation. We are building a top-notch AI org with our AI leaders today spread across India, the US, and the UK. These AI capabilities have helped us to serve the most relevant content to our users while at the same time providing our creators with the most relevant audience,” he said.

The platform has created a Rs 100 crores fund for their creators to help them monetize their content on the platform. The holistic approach of the platform also caught the marketer’s attention and given the scope of clubbing with ShareChat, the platform offers a large reach and wider variety of ad offerings. In one of their recent brand associations in which Moj partnered with Fanta, short-video creators created videos using the Moj Fanta lens and the platform delivered 600 million odd views and over 3.5 lakh posts for the brand in a week-long campaign.

There are others too who have worked aggressively to improve their tech capabilities to make it easier and more interesting for creators. With a product-driven and creator-first approach to market, another homegrown platform Rizzle claims to have grown over 100x in the last 6 months alone.

“This has all been possible because of Rizzle’s relentless innovation. Features such as Rimix and Filmi have brought the next big inflection in music-based video creation after Musical.ly’s original idea of track-based recording and duets! In a world where even the big players are reinventing duets as their key feature, Rizzle leads in thought leadership and innovation. Rizzle’s latest AI-based video meme generating feature, Titan, brings a framework for creating entertaining memes. By making it easy to create these memes, millions of creators will participate in creating funny and intriguing videos,” said Vidya Narayanan, CEO & Co-Founder - Rizzle

Earning the ad dollars

Turns out, TikTok, had earned Rs 23-25 crore in ad revenue in Q4 2019 and was targeting to touch Rs 100 crore in Q3 2020. While the app was banned in the country Indian apps managed to bite into a large share of digital ad dollars earmarked by marketers.

According to a digital expert, the key to monetization is always the reach a platform can offer. “Once these home grown apps began to crack the reach game, marketers followed. For companies focused on reaching the largest footprint per rupee, it didn't matter whether it was a Chinese, Indian or a US based company,” the expert said.

All thanks to the exponential growth in reach most of the apps managed to get in a short span of time.

“Over the last year, Roposo witnessed the growth of creators and users like never before, with people looking to express themselves in the WFH situation, and creators becoming trendsetters on the platform - with 125 million + lock screen users of Glance further amplifying the content created on Roposo. We are also looking at reimagining shopping for users globally by bringing in influencer and celeb commerce in a massive way on Roposo and Glance. With our Shop101 acquisition, we are building an influencer commerce platform to enable our creators to become entrepreneurs,” said Mansi Jain, GM – Roposo.

Going ahead, experts suggest celebrity and influencer-led LIVE commerce is expected to a primary aspect of e-commerce globally. This model has seen huge success in China accounting for over 20% of the total e-commerce sales. Even though it is still in an early phase in India now, according to reports, the total addressable market for LIVE and Interactive Commerce in the country is expected to surpass $40 billion by 2025. 

Partnerships and celebrity engagements

Aggressive tie-ups and getting celebrities on board have also helped in the growth of popularity for these apps.

“Our journey has seen the birth of the innovative Chingari Multiplex with NHStudioz. A walk that has been adorned with robust partnerships with giants such as Alt Balaji, Shemaroo, QIndia, Brut India, Hoichoi, Stage OTT, Indie Music and Merchant Records to give maximum mileage to users. Not limited to this, an exclusive tie up with Gangubai Bhansali to add the flavor of Bhansali films,” said Deepak Salvi, COO & Co-founder, Chingari.

Chingari touched a new milestone with the onboarding of Salman Khan as a global brand ambassador and investor. While one feat inspires another, Chingari has been establishing strategic partnerships with prominent Bollywood stars through TrueFan and reaching new audiences with Dance With Madhuri and the star-studded Chingari World Music Day Concert.

With over 70 Mn downloads already, Chingari is now exploring monetization opportunities.

Funding support

Interestingly, global venture capitalists (VCs) are also on the lookout for the next unicorn to replace TikTok and their current hunting ground is India. In fact, Mohalla Tech, the parent company behind India’s leading short video app Moj and Indic language social media platform, ShareChat has become the latest entrant to the Unicorn Club. The company has raised US$502 million in its latest round. With the new rounds of investment, the valuation stands a little over US$2.1 billion. The investment has been led by Lightspeed Ventures and Tiger Global, along with participation from Snap Inc, Twitter and India Quotient amongst others.

In April this year, OnMobile Global Limited and short-form video app Chingari announced that OnMobile had led a $13 million round in Chingari.

ShareChat and Chingari are not the only examples. A lot of other video apps like Trell, Roposo have also either secured fundings or are in various stages of negotiation with venture capitalists. 

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