Ban to hit Chinese companies, loosen their grip on Indian app market

Chinese apps were quite popular on Google Play Store.
Half the companies that figured in the list of the top 10 downloaded apps in May were Chinese. Data from App Annie based on Google Play shows  Bytedance, which owns both TikTok and Helo, hit the number three slot  in May in terms of downloads — just behind Google and Facebook. Four other Chinese companies were in the top 10 list — gaming developer Jinke Culture-Outfit-7,  social gaming platform Doodle Mobile, live streaming content player Joyy Inc, and OneSmile known for video apps along with the subsidiaries.

That’s how complete the Chinese hold on the Indian app market has been. On Monday, the government imposed an interim ban on 59 popular Chinese apps including TikTok (third on the list) and Helo (fifth). The wild popularity of Chinese apps in India is matched only by their variety: social media, chat rooms, news, e-commerce, gaming, app cloners, virtual makeovers, micro blogging, photo editing, and battery power enhancers. 

In revenue as well, the Chinese apps have been in leadership position in recent months. Tencent hit the number one spot in May, far ahead of Google which was a distant fourth. Tencent leveraged consumer demand for video games during the lockdown with its popular offerings such as PUBG. 

With these figures, the ban is bound to hit Chinese companies. Based on data from Sensor Tower and Google Analytics, as many as eight to ten of them were among the top 100 most downloaded apps in India till Monday.

Apart from TikTok (according to sources, Tiktok’s servers are in Singapore and the US) and Helo, these included Shareit, CamScanner, UC Browser, and Club Factory to name only a few. 

But, some of them had started to lose their appeal in terms of rankings even before the border skirmishes between the two countries. The consequent cry for a boycott of Chinese products and services further dented their appeal.  

Bigger companies like ByteDance and Alibaba (which owns UC Browser and UC News) as well as Tencent (which owned WeChat) are likely to suffer some disruptions in their India strategy. 

This may, however, be offset by the fact that Alibaba and Tencent have large investments in the Indian tech business such as Paytm and Ola.

As independent businesses, the banned apps were clearly dependent on India for their business model. The e-commerce site Club Factory, for example, has over 100 million Indian subscribers and over 30,000 Indian sellers on its site. 

UC Browser has 130 million active users in India out of its total 430 million across the world.  As for TikTok, with 200 million subscribers here, it is the largest market after China. Some analysts say that the revenues for Chinese apps come largely from gaming and cite Tencent as an example.

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