Technophile

Helo from TikTok: Connecting to the new times

Jinoy Jose P | Updated on June 19, 2019 Published on June 19, 2019

The India-centric social media platform from ByteDance is now making waves across the globe

One of the most unique characteristics about social media is it’s an ever-evolving space. New players, new platforms and new ideas get added to the universe so fast that it takes some effort to cut through all the clutter and make sense of what’s hot and what’s not and, of course, who’s alive and clicking. Until a few months ago, I didn’t know much about Helo, the social media platform from ByteDance, the Chinese technology firm valued at over $70 billion, a feat that earned it the moniker, the world’s most valued startup. Rightfully billed the YouTube killer, for the sheer size and spread of it (the short video app currently commands more than 20 crore active users in India alone), TikTok is growing fast, disrupting the way user-generated content is shared on social media, triggering controversies along the way as some, including legislators from Tamil Nadu, see it as a threat to Indian culture.

Amidst the cacophony, the arrival of Helo, which ByteDance calls a game-changing social media app, didn’t get the deserved attention. ByteDance launched Helo in June 2018, with a mission to “bridge the information gap for Indians who are comfortable expressing themselves in their local language.”

What is it?

For starters, Helo is a social media platform with a difference, where you can create, upload and share a variety of content — flashcards, GIFs, short videos, music bytes, jokes, memes, status updates, wishes, quotes, poetry and news. Helo makes it extremely easy for users to categorise, search and find content of their liking with a well-curated algorithm and features such as hash-tagging. For instance, if you want to wish your dad on Father’s Day, Helo offers you several hashtags with the theme, clicking on which you can access millions of short videos, messages, motivational cards, etc, and share them among friends on Helo or across social media.

In fact, downloading and sharing content on Helo is much simpler than on many other social media platforms where content is proprietary and downloading them for third-party use is a pain. The visual platform is specifically designed for Indian mobile users who prefer their mother tongue. The focus on the vernacular is definitely going to give Helo an edge over similar apps given that local language search on most other social media platforms is a cumbersome exercise. On Helo, this is a lot simpler and the hash-tagging works really well. Media companies, brands, event managers, celebrities, influencers, almost all the who’s who of the social media world are now flocking to Helo as well, clearly signalling its potential in reaching a wider user base. Helo seems to understand the ‘Indian ways’ in which internet bandwidth functions and has enabled features such as offline play, easy downloads and so on.

Phenomenal growth

The India-focussed app is available in 14 Indian languages, including Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali, Marathi, Hindi and Assamese. In fact, Helo clocked 10 lakh downloads within a month of its launch and ever since, it has been consistently ranked among the top-free apps on Google’s Play Store. The app is growing just like its more popular sibling TikTok. During the first quarter of 2019, Helo grew by more than 60 per cent to hit more than 40 million monthly active users. ByteDance is aiming big, targeting a 300 per cent growth in 2019.

The growing popularity of Helo in India has prompted ByteDance to take it to other countries. Indian communities across geographies such as the US, Canada, Singapore, Qatar, South Africa, Bangladesh, etc, can now access Helo. The app has tied-up with brands and properties popular among regional audiences to produce and monetise content shared on its platforms. For instance, Helo was the digital media partner for Bigg Boss Kannada, which enabled the app’s Kannada-speaking users to connect with the wider community of influencers.

Even though Helo got into some controversy recently for allowing fake and illegitimate content on the platform, much like the charges levelled against TikTok, the platform’s makers say Helo is also using artificial intelligence in sync with human expertise to filter content that violates its guidelines.

Published on June 19, 2019

A letter from the Editor


Dear Readers,

The coronavirus crisis has changed the world completely in the last few months. All of us have been locked into our homes, economic activity has come to a near standstill. Everyone has been impacted.

Including your favourite business and financial newspaper. Our printing and distribution chains have been severely disrupted across the country, leaving readers without access to newspapers. Newspaper delivery agents have also been unable to service their customers because of multiple restrictions.

In these difficult times, we, at BusinessLine have been working continuously every day so that you are informed about all the developments – whether on the pandemic, on policy responses, or the impact on the world of business and finance. Our team has been working round the clock to keep track of developments so that you – the reader – gets accurate information and actionable insights so that you can protect your jobs, businesses, finances and investments.

We are trying our best to ensure the newspaper reaches your hands every day. We have also ensured that even if your paper is not delivered, you can access BusinessLine in the e-paper format – just as it appears in print. Our website and apps too, are updated every minute, so that you can access the information you want anywhere, anytime.

But all this comes at a heavy cost. As you are aware, the lockdowns have wiped out almost all our entire revenue stream. Sustaining our quality journalism has become extremely challenging. That we have managed so far is thanks to your support. I thank all our subscribers – print and digital – for your support.

I appeal to all or readers to help us navigate these challenging times and help sustain one of the truly independent and credible voices in the world of Indian journalism. Doing so is easy. You can help us enormously simply by subscribing to our digital or e-paper editions. We offer several affordable subscription plans for our website, which includes Portfolio, our investment advisory section that offers rich investment advice from our highly qualified, in-house Research Bureau, the only such team in the Indian newspaper industry.

A little help from you can make a huge difference to the cause of quality journalism!

Sincerely,

Support Quality Journalism
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor
You have read 1 out of 3 free articles for this week. For full access, please subscribe and get unlimited access to all sections.