Chinese App Ban: Creating New Spaces for Indian Startups

Chinese apps have had a huge market in India. The major users of Chinese apps like TikTok, Helo, ShareIt, UC Browser, Shein, PUBG, Club Factory, etc. were Indians. So these apps' major revenue was drawn from our country.

All that changed when the government of India banned Chinese apps and created new opportunities for Indian startups.

Why were Chinese Apps banned in India?

On June 29, 2020, the Indian government banned 59 popular Chinese mobile apps including widely used TikTok, ShareIt, WeChat, UC Browser among others; and followed that up by banning 47 more apps in July. So far, the government has banned a total of 224 apps having China links(appendix).

Chinese apps banned in India

According to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the apps were engaged in activities that are prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, the security of the state and public order. The apps were secretly stealing and transmitting user data in an unauthorized manner to servers located outside India.

The blocking order was issued under Section 69A of the Information Technology Act. This massive app banning comes just days after Indian and Chinese troops were involved in a fresh face-off at the border.

India a major market for banned Chinese apps

India was a large and growing market for many of the Chinese apps banned in the country. TikTok, the most popular among them, had 16.4 million new installs in June 2020. Overall, the app has over 200 million active users in India, which amounts to almost 40% of its 500 million users worldwide.

TikTok’s sister app Helo, which caters to regional language audiences, also occupied a 50 million userbase in India.

Bigo Live, a live streaming app, and Likee, a video streaming app, are also very popular in India. Likee has run several engagement campaigns on its platform in association with leading Indian brands. In 2019, it partnered with Salman Khan Films to promote Dabangg 3.

Alibaba-owned UC browser has over 130 million active users in India. In fact, UC browser was the second leading mobile browser in India, with a 14.5% market share after Google Chrome, as of May 2020, and over 6.1 million new installs in June 2020 in India.

Chinese apps alternatives

Response of Indians after the ban

According to Indian press reports, local entrepreneurs and venture capitalists are welcoming the ban on Chinese apps, suggesting it could boost local companies, particularly those operating in the sectors of e-commerce, social media, and gaming sectors. Several business tycoons who experienced success, as well as failure in the Indian tech startup ecosystem, have spoken in the government's decision’s favor.  According to them, the ban will help the Indian businesses to establish better in the GDS alternatives to the Chinese apps which have been banned.

Vijay Shekhar Sharma, CEO and founder of Paytm, said that this could bring a “digital revolution" in India.

"Bold step in the national interest. A step towards Atmanirbhar App ecosystem. Time for the best Indian entrepreneurs to come forward and build the best by Indians, for Indians!"
Top 300 apps on Play Store in India Split

Opportunity for Indian Startups

The ban on Chinese apps, which had secured an enormous mass of Indian users over the years, provides India’s startups an opportunity to step up and conquer the market.

Most apps that have been banned have been successful in their local markets, and have used the consequent resources to expand in India. Their journey provides Indian startups a potential playbook, that if executed well, could place many of India’s apps on the global map.

The steps taken by the Indian government, such as announcing the ‘Atmanirbhar’ (self-reliance) App Innovation Challenge, suggests that it has a strategy to make India digitally secure and independent.


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While the ban has come in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it will certainly pave the way for more homegrown startups to launch Indian equivalents of the banned apps.

This is a great opportunity to serve consumers with a great product. Speed of innovation and understanding of local consumer behavior will be critical for our companies to compete effectively with other offerings and this ban is like a marketing boost for Indian apps. The ban brings forth a plethora of opportunities and is in sync with the ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ revolution spoken about by the prime minister.

There is also a real ‘swadeshi’ (homegrown) sentiment among consumers right now” and that ensures local platforms have the opportunity and responsibility to serve India’s consumers.

While many Indian startups who have Chinese investors could face pressure, this is also an opportunity for local investors to take bigger bets on Indian startups. Such moments rarely come in a lifetime and players in the startup ecosystem must recognize the massive opportunity.


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Indian tech platforms have the potential to go global

The idea of Indian apps stepping in to fill the vacuum and potentially going global is not far-fetched. This ban provides Indian app developers and entrepreneurs a chance to build a digital business by creating world-class solutions. It also provides existing players across social, messaging, utilities, and gaming categories to spread their wings farther.


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Platforms such as Glance with more than 100 million daily active users, and Roposo with more than 75 million downloads, are already competing at scale with global players. Together, these account for nearly 40 percent of India’s smartphone population. Jio, with nearly 400 million subscribers, has 33 percent of India’s telecom subscribers. They might well become the largest tech businesses leading the Made In India narrative on the global platform.

Final Words

The ban on mainstream Chinese apps gives Indian tech startups a little longer runway to catch up and present compelling products that can appeal to users while respecting their privacy. While our Indian companies could benefit from this ban only if we can build attractive, reliable products that are part of a for-profit, pro-privacy IT ecosystem for humanity.

Appendix

List of banned Chinese apps in India.

  • APUS Launcher Pro
  • APUS Launcher
  • APUS Security
  • APUS Turbo Cleaner 2020
  • APUS Flashlight
  • Cut Cut
  • Baidu
  • FaceU
  • ShareSave by Xiaomi
  • CamCard
  • CamCard Business
  • CamOCR
  • VooV Meeting
  • Super Clean
  • Small Q brush
  • WeChat reading
  • Government WeChat
  • WeChat Work
  • Tencent Weiyun
  • Cyber Hunter Lite
  • Pitu
  • Cyber Hunter
  • Knives Out
  • Super Mecha Champions
  • Dawn of Isles
  • LifeAfter
  • Ludo World
  • PUBG MOBILE LITE
  • Chess Rush
  • Rise of Kingdoms: Lost Crusade
  • PUBG MOBILE Nordic Map
  • Warpath
  • Art of Conquest: Dark Horizon
  • Dank Tanks
  • Gallery Vault
  • Game of Sultans
  • Smart AppLock
  • Message Lock
  • Dual Space
  • AppLock
  • AppLock Lite
  • ZAKZAK Pro
  • ZAKZAK LIVE
  • Music
  • Music Player
  • Cleaner – Phone Booster
  • Photo Gallery HD & Editor
  • Photo Gallery & Album
  • Music Player – Bass Booster
  • Web Browser & Fast Explorer
  • Video Player All Format for Android
  • Gallery HD
  • Video Player
  • Amour
  • MV Master
  • APUS Message Center
  • Carrom Friends
  • Ludo All-Star
  • Bike Racing
  • Rangers Of Oblivion
  • Z Camera
  • GO SMS Pro
  • U-Dictionary
  • Ulike
  • Tantan
  • MICO Chat
  • Kitty Live
  • Alipay
  • Mobile Taobao
  • Road of Kings- Endless Glory
  • AlipayHK
  • Penguin FM
  • Youku
  • Sina News
  • Netease News
  • Murderous Pursuits
  • Mobile Legends: Pocket
  • HUYA LIVE
  • VPN for TikTok
  • iPick
  • Little Q Album
  • Hi Meitu
  • Beauty Camera Plus
  • Parallel Space Lite
  • Rules of Survival
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About Rishita Jain

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