A court ban is not deterring ByteDance, the parent company of Chinese video app Tik Tok, from upgrading its India operations. Google Play and Apple App Store ditched the app that has some 120 million users in India following a Madras High Court order that agreed to a petitioner's view that the popular short video app encouraged sharing of pornography.
Bytedance plans to invest up to $1 billion in India to tap into the country with one of the world's largest number of smartphone users, media reports say. At 33.4 per cent, India ranks only 44th in smartphone penetration. But 447 million phone users among a population of 1.3-billion is a mouth-watering prospect for any app company. Tik Tok plans to increase the workforce in India to 1,000 this year, according to reports.
"We are obviously disappointed by the current developments, but we are also very optimistic that we will resolve this issue. We remain committed to our Indian users. As a company, we are looking to invest $1 billion over the next three years in India, that is how bullish we will remain to be here", a PTI report said quoting ByteDance director (international public policy) Helena Lersch.
The company has been strengthening its content moderation policies over the last months, one of the weak areas that apparently invited the court's wrath. The content moderation team in India, which reviews the posts via a machine-learning tool, is proficient in 14 local languages and can make the culturally relevant decision. Lersch says Tik Tok plans to appoint a 250-personnel strong contingent of content moderation staff in India, the report said citing the official.
Zhang Yiming-founded ByteDance is reportedly one of the world's most valuable start-ups backed by investors like SoftBank, General Atlantic, KKR and Sequoia. The company makes available other platforms like Vigo Video and Helo for content creation and sharing.
Following the Madras High Court's April 3, 2019, order,there is an India-wide ban on Tik Tok, though the current users can continue to use the app. The company is challenging the ban. ByteDance is also readying a music-sharing app to compete with the likes of Spotify, Gaana, Wynk, and JioSaavn in India, according to reports. The company hopes to disrupt the music curating app scene in India. ByteDance's strategy includes focussing on tier two and three cities of India, according to reports. This offers vast diversity if local music content is streamed, industry observers say. ByteDance can adequately leverage its resource and technology to capture a major portion of the Indian market that could open the doors for the company to tap into the vast Indian diaspora.