The ban on dozens of Chinese apps following a border dispute with China has probably derailed a billion dollar expansion plan for ByteDance in India, while causing uproar from users of its famous TikTok video application. TikTok was pulled from Google and Apple app stores across the country after the Center said on Monday evening that it was one of 59 apps it said posed a “threat to sovereignty and integrity”. The government order did not name China or cite border clashes.
Application analytics company Sensor Tower said the 59 apps named were of Chinese origin, including WeChat from Tencent and UC Browser from Alibaba. “If this is not canceled, these companies would be forced to reduce their operations in India, which could lead to job loss,” said a lawyer who advises a Chinese company whose application has been banned.
The Chinese foreign ministry said it was “deeply concerned” about India’s decision, adding that India had “the responsibility to defend the legitimate rights of investors, including Chinese companies.”
The biggest victim of this decision appears to be ByteDance, which since last year has hired several senior executives and plans to invest $ 1 billion in India. India is TikTok’s largest growth market and accounts for 30% of its 2 billion downloads worldwide.
TikTok said in a statement that the Indian government had invited the company to respond to the ban and submit clarifications, adding that it complies with all data security and confidentiality requirements. She did not comment on the fate of her expansion plan.
Following the prohibition order, many TikTok users have posted videos expressing their dissatisfaction with the ban. A user @ omkarsharma988 posted a video in which he threw utensils on the floor, hit a chair and cried, with a song in Hindi playing “You left me, how will I live now?” The video was viewed 218,000 times because the app still works on the phones to which it is already downloaded.
When TikTok was briefly banned last year after a court said the app encouraged pornography, the company told the Supreme Court that the ban had cost it around $ 15 million a month. Several Indian lawyers said the chances of success through a court challenge were slim this time since the government had raised concerns about national security, which means that Chinese companies can only hope to press for reversal. decision.
“From a legal point of view, this ban is valid because reasons such as national security are difficult to challenge,” said Santosh Pai of Link Legal, who advises Chinese companies.
The ban also left Tencent disappointed, which has applications in the market and is also a major investor in Indian startups, two sources aware of the company’s concerns told Reuters.
In April, the central government made it mandatory to screen inbound investment from countries like China, like Tencent.
Although its WeChat messaging app is not that popular in India, the company is concerned that the government would later impose a ban on the mobile version of its hit game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, one of the sources said.
Tencent declined to comment. Two games from the Chinese-based companies, “Mobile Legends” and “Clash of Kings”, were among those banned on Monday.
Sensor Tower said the 59 banned apps had registered around 4.9 billion downloads in India since January 2014.