Several popular Chinese apps, including Tik-Tok, UC Browser and ShareIt, left the Indian market soon after the government imposed the ban. Investors lined up to back made-in-India alternatives to these apps, which had garnered millions of downloads within a day of launch.
Talking about whether India has a market for such indigenous apps, especially with global players like Instagram bouncing in to grab their shares, Cyber Analyst Achen Jakher tells Sputnik that with a huge distrust regarding data security from nations such as China, people in India have finally started to take a closer look at apps made in India.
"With over 450 million mobile phone users, and growing, India is one of the largest markets in the world for mobile applications. Our love for indigenous products including mobile apps is at its peak considering today’s scenario," Jakher said.
Before the ban was imposed on 59 Chinese apps under India's Information and Technology Act, the country's indigenous version of the short-video making app Mitron garnered over five million downloads within a month of launch.
Similarly, after TikTok withdrew from the Indian market in adherence to the ban, made in India app Chingari recorded a 100 percent jump in subscriber base by hitting five million downloads just a day later. The app, which lets users record short video clips with music, dialogues and special effects, is being touted as a major replacement for China's TikTok.
With concerns over privacy and data security around Zoom, a video conferencing app founded by Chinese-American businessman Eric Yuan, India's Reliance Industries has also launched JioMeet, an unlimited free video calling app. The app secured 100,000 downloads instantly after launch.
However, with global players like Instagram's Reels bouncing in to fill in TikTok's space, concerns have emerged as to whether Indian apps will be able to compete with these players with global reach.
Thomas George, a tech research firm head tells Sputnik that these apps are not only used by urban India but Bharat which includes rural India along with Tier-II, Tier-III & Tier-IV towns.
"Given the Government of India’s drive for a self-reliant economy and the current sentiments, people will associate with an Indian app. The only criteria are that the app has to be of a good standard - it needs to be lite enough to run on entry-level smartphones and it should be able to run on available network connectivity in those remote geographical locations while adhering to all data security and privacy compliances ” the analyst said.
According to the Internet & Mobile Association of India, the country has 227 million active internet users, which is 10 percent more than urban India, until November 2019.
Funding Amid Pandemic
Indian start-ups have seen a massive decline in funding during this pandemic. According to a survey titled ‘Reviving the Indian start-up engine during Covid-19’, nearly 90 percent of start-ups in India have seen a decline in revenue, and nearly 30 percent have temporarily halted their operation.
Will funding be an obstacle in encouraging and endorsing innovations among the Indian start-up community to fill in the gap? Cyber analyst Jakher says there is absolutely no doubt that Indian companies will be able to do so, whether it be startups or well-established firms.
"We already have variants of almost all the apps. The Indian government has also announced multiple initiatives to help such companies with financial/technical assistance," he said.
The Indian prime minister also announced the launch of the "Aatmanirbhar Bharat" (self-reliant India) App Innovation Challenge last week, a competition aiming to identify leading Indian apps and those which have the capacity to go global.
"When we talk about additional functionalities and features within the apps, Indian companies are working tirelessly to add those, and in time to come it will become an alternative."