With the Centre deciding to ban 59 Chinese apps permanently, ByteDance, which owns the TikTok and Helo apps, has decided to shut its India operations and ‘scale back’ the size of its workforce.


According to sources at the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), the app companies were asked to furnish some requirements over the past few months, but did not make any progress, so a permanent ban was the final solution.

Some of the banned big names are TikTok, Baidu, WeChat, Alibaba’s UC Browser, shopping app Club Factory, Xiaomi's Mi Video Call, Bigo and Likee.

“The interim order has been made into a final order, so they are permanently banned from operating in India. We are not satisfied with the responses that they have furnished. We cannot allow apps which are a threat to the security of the nation,” a senior official at MeitY told BusinessLine .

TikTok said it is still evaluating the notice (final order) and will respond to it as appropriate.

Lack of direction

“However, it is disappointing that in the ensuing seven months, despite our efforts, we have not been given a clear direction on how and when our apps could be reinstated. It is deeply regretful that after supporting our 2,000-plus employees in India for more than half a year, we have no choice but to scale back the size of our workforce,” a TikTok spokesperson said.

TikTok said it was among the first to comply with the Centre’s directive, issued on June 29, 2020, and continually strives to comply with local laws and regulations. “We look forward to receiving the opportunity to relaunch TikTok and support the hundreds of millions of users, artists, story-tellers, educators and performers in India,” the company added.

A spokesperson at Xiaomi said: “Mi India is in compliance with all government orders and will continue to do so and engage with the relevant stakeholders for the same.”

Indian rivals upbeat

Meanwhile, homegrown app owners said the permanent ban on Chinese apps is a huge source of motivation to the entire Indian start-up ecosystem, which now gets to display its skills and entrepreneurship.

“We see a lot of growth in terms of users’ content consumption and much more. So we are happy that the government has taken such a harsh step,” said Aditya Kothari, co-founder and Chief Strategist, Chingari, a short-video app.

“Sad to hear so many people had to get laid off because of this move of TikTok. We were expecting this from a long time. None of the companies or founders wish so (for lay-offs). We will hire some of the potential talent,” added Kothari

Analysts tracking the developments also agreed that government support is needed for the local apps to grow.

“We need to have a deeper understanding and control of what is happening at the app level to safeguard privacy and data of users. So banning of suspicious apps is the best solution. However, we shall also have to support the local set-up, to come up with alternatives,” said Faisal Kawoosa, founder and Chief Analyst at techARC.