Divakar Vijayasarathy, founder and managing partner at DVS Advisors LLP, said, “Since China enjoys an abnormally high trade surplus of $60 billion, boycotting Chinese products would have the maximum impact if it fructifies,” said Vijayasarathy.
However, other experts said it was important to understand that a total boycott is impractical. According to Salman Waris, managing partner at TechLegis Advocates & Solicitors, the boycott will have some impact on the number of users of these apps in India in the “short term”.
“However it will be a bit (ignorant) to expect it will have any (repurcussions) from a geopolitical perspective,” said Waris. “Companies and countries don’t play the short-term.”
This is because China’s investments into India’s tech start-up space have been over $8 billion over the last five years. The country has been one of the largest recipients of Chinese investments. “China's digital and mobile dominance runs deep into the Indian economy,” said Waris.
Despite the geopolitical issues between India and China, there is a robust $87 billion in trade between the two countries.
TikTok, the Chinese short-video app earned revenue of around Rs 25 crore in the October-December 2019 quarter and was targeting Rs 100 crore revenue in India by September 2020.
Prasanth Sugathan, legal director at Software Freedom Law Center, India (SFLC) sees the boycott as a knee-jerk reaction. “In the short term there could be some impact for the apps, but people would go back if these apps are perceived to be of value,” said Sugathan. “With the kind of investments Chinese companies have made in the telecom space, this may not prevail for long.”
However, Sugathan said apps handling sensitive personal data, including financial information, would require greater scrutiny if the servers are located in China. Tripti Jain, lawyer and researcher at the Internet Democracy Project, said as long as the country doesn’t have a comprehensive personal data protection framework, fundamental right of privacy and national
security both are at risk.
“Most social media apps
and online applications are built on the model of surveillance capitalism, and in the absence of a data protection regime, the threat of breach of privacy and national security exists,” said Jain.