(Representative image)

BENGALURU: The race to replace China’s TikTok, and grab its users and creators, is heating up. A new set of Indian startups in the social and short-video sharing space — like Chingari, Roposo, Public and Mitron — has emerged in the list of top 20 downloaded apps on Google’s Play Store in the last few days.
Among the 59 apps banned by the government on Monday evening, TikTok was the largest in terms of users, which stood at about 200 million registered and 120 million monthly active users (MAUs). While Roposo, owned by India’s first unicorn InMobi, has been racking up downloads, new startups like Mitron, Chingari and Trell are also gaining. Almost all of these platforms found themselves adding extra server capacity to host the rising volume of users.
For example, Bengaluru-based Chingari has seen one million new users in the last 24 hours. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had about 3.5 million downloads. “Most of our installs have come since June 10. We are the fastest growing platform in this space,” said Sumit Ghosh, co-founder of the platform. He pulled an all-nighter due to the surge in traffic and for managing the load on servers, which crashed on Monday night.
“Prior to the ban (of Chinese apps), when we had around 2.5 million users, we had daily active users of around over half a million, and now the same is 1.2-1.5 million,” said Ghosh, 34. He added that most of the new users are typically those who used TikTok and seem to be “jumping the ship” now.
This is a major reason driving users and influencers to the platform, which first released its beta version two years ago. Sensing the opportunity to capitalise on the growing anti-China sentiment, Chingari started campaigns through platforms like Instagram over the last one month. Now it has about 10,000 influencers, a base that’s grown from a couple of thousands a few months ago. Chingari is adding more to this base via agencies who manage influencers.
This is playing out across other platforms too as the border conflict with China in Ladakh stoked anti-Dragon nationalistic sentiments. Companies like Vokal, Trell and ShareChat have also seen significant growth, while many users are also moving to Instagram, a youth-focused platform owned by Facebook.
This has also triggered the belief further among Indian startups that they can build on the current momentum to create large-scale technology companies in the segment. Most of these platforms are also multi-lingual, so their target audience goes beyond just the top cities. Typically, they are male-dominated with users coming from across tier 1-3 cities.
InMobi has Glance, which shows local language content on locked smartphone screens. The company also acquired Roposo last year. InMobi founder and CEO Naveen Tewari echoed Ghosh, who is now eyeing 10 million users, before July ends. Tewari emphasised on the quality and nature of content, saying it should maintain “sanctity of the society” and over the coming months will also introduce educational content on the app. Roposo claims it has seen a 5x increase in its MAUs to 25 million as of June 29 compared to May.
“The quality of the content is of the highest order. India deserves high-quality content. We did not have the growth curves that TikTok was having, but I was sure at some point of time this will get questioned,” he said. He added the company is further investing in Roposo infrastructure even though some hiccups may come in 24-48 hours.
“In the last six weeks, Roposo grew by 8-10 times, ending up with 65 million users. The numbers are changing by the hour,” said Tewari. He added that the company is working on launching more social and entertainment apps. While InMobi is registered in Singapore, which he says is because its advertisement business serves a global customer base, it is founded and run by Indians with operational headquarters in Bengaluru.
Trell, a lifestyle video platform of typically 3-4 minutes, said it has seen about 1 million downloads in the last 24 hours and is only cashing-in on the opening created by the government decision. Around 1 lakh new creators also joined its platform in the last two days. “This opportunity has enabled us to get more content creators to start using the Trell app and reach out to larger audiences. Our ambition is to be a global phenomena and that has just got accelerated,” said Trell co-founder Pulkit Agarwal.
The Bengaluru-based startup will roll out its commerce initiative in the next two weeks, where one can purchase a range of products from within the platform via creators. So far, its focus has been fashion and lifestyle, but it is planning to expand in multiple new categories like gadgets and motivational talks. Trell said its app has been installed by 30 million users and has 9 million monthly active users.



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