10:47 GMT21 September 2020
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    New Delhi (Sputnik): Following India’s ban on a total of 121 Chinese apps, TikTok’s parent company ByteDance has reportedly frozen hiring in the country. Although the company is not formally laying off its Indian employees, it is reassigning senior officials to other offices overseas like Australia and the Middle East, the media has reported.

    Bogged down in an intense tech war, ByteDance, parent company of Tiktok, has decided to freeze recruitment in its biggest market India, Indian media outlets have revealed, citing people familiar with the matter.

    The reported decision was conveyed to the Indian head office in the Delhi suburb of Gurugram just as the company planned to expand its business in the country, evidenced from the report that it had purchased a new space for a thousand people in Mumbai.

    TikTok is expected to face similar disruption in the US as an executive order by President Donald Trump could prevent American app stores from offering the popular short-video app, used by roughly 100 million Americans.

    "After India's ban on TikTok, the US is also inclining towards a similar step, so once you lose two of your bigger markets, it looks like a natural outcome in terms of managing business. The company could lose more employees from other countries due to cost cutting decisions", said Jiten Jain, CEO, Indian Infosec Consortium, which is a group of India's leading cyber security experts and researchers.
    India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Himalayan region of Ladakh, July 3, 2020.
    © REUTERS / PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU
    India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Himalayan region of Ladakh, July 3, 2020.

    Speaking about the reports of ByteDance relocating senior employees away from its Indian market, which according to Jain is very uncertain currently, tech experts also said that the company could take similar steps in its corporate functioning in other countries as well.

    "During the current unprecedented times, most companies are looking at resource actions and freezing hiring, ByteDance is not an exception. They have a good R&D team deployed in India and it can always absorb people into it if their domestic business is getting impacted due to the ban. If the ban is continued and their domestic and global business is impacted - they may realign their domestic market-focused employees into their R&D wing", Thomas George, President, CyberMedia Research told Sputnk.

    Getting Rid of Stigma: Another Challenge for Chinese Firms

    Amid rising sentiment against Chinese goods and services in India following the killing of 20 Indian soldiers by the People's Liberation Army in a violent clash in the Galwan Valley on 15 June, experts are claiming that employees working with Chinese firms will have a "tough choice to make" in the coming days.

    "Whether there is a ban or not, there is a growing atmosphere of nationalism across the world and the nation comes first beyond anything", Jain said, while adding that these speculations are true for all major Chinese companies like TikTok, Huawei, and ZTE where they have considerable influence of the Chinese Communist Party. 

    Regarding the changing atmosphere of hiring and firing influenced by the Indo-China border dispute, Kunal Kislay, CEO, of tech start-up Integration Wizards Solutions has predicted a broader trend where employees are cautious about choosing Chinese employers. "Even Indian companies with a majority Chinese stake might face some heat", he added.

    When Sputnik reached out to ByteDance for comment, it directed us to a couple of blog posts published by Kevin Mayer – CEO, TikTok & COO Bytedance and Nikhil Gandhi, TikTok India Head.

    "TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under Indian law and places the highest importance on user privacy and integrity", Mayer wrote in a note to Indian employees posted on the TikTok News Room earlier in July.

    Back Channel Talks with Government

    TikTok India head Gandhi revealed that the company has submitted its response to the government and is working with them to provide clarifications to allay the concerns they have.

    "We have not shared any information of our users in India with any foreign governments, nor have we used such data in any manner that would compromise the integrity of India. Further, even if we are requested to in the future, we would not do so", Gandhi's note said.

    In July, India’s electronics and information technology ministry (MeitY) sent the parent companies of the banned Chinese apps questionnaires, seeking information on their methods of operation, data collection, and locations of operational offices.

    At present, the company has neither admitted nor rejected rumours of it agreeing to store the data of Indian users locally following the ban.

    On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said TikTok is nothing more than just an entertainment platform that the "US has generalised (over) national security" and is "unreasonably suppressing non-US firms without evidence".

    India is reportedly considering to ban 273 more Chinese apps, which according to the Chinese state-run media out the Global Times would be "very frustrating" for Chinese companies and investors.

    "The Indian government has the responsibility to protect the legitimate rights and interests of international investors in India, including Chinese businesses, in accordance with market principles. The Chinese side has lodged a solemn representation with the Indian side and asked the Indian side to correct its wrongdoings", Chinese Embassy spokesperson in New Delhi Ji Rong said on 28 July. 

    Earlier in July, speculations of ByteDance considering refreshing TikTok’s corporate structure and making it an individual unit with a new official headquarters away from Beijing had also surfaced. Currently, US-based software giant Microsoft is deliberating over purchasing TikTok's global operations.

    'Grab the Opportunities'

    Meanwhile, Indian tech experts have reiterated Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of a "self-reliant India" and have urged Indian developers to grab this opportunity.

    "This ban has given a huge opportunity to Indian entrepreneurs to come up with alternate solutions. Some of the Indian versions of TikTok like Mitron, Chingari, and Rizzle must use this time to scale up their offerings", Kunal Kislay, CEO and Co-Founder of tech start-up Integration Wizards Solutions told Sputnik.

    The relationship between the two Asian giants, India and China, soured after New Delhi lost 20 soldiers in a violent clash with Chinese troops on 15 June in the Ladakh region along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). The clash came after troops from both countries accused each other of border intrusions.

    Following the altercation, the "Boycott Made in China" movement witnessed major momentum in India. 

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    Tags:
    Ladakh region, border, Narendra Modi, US, TikTok, Tech, China, India
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