TikTok’s $1 bn investment in India to boost data business

TikTok, which has more than 120 million users in India, will invest $1 billion in the country – indicating further increase in data business of mobile operators.
TikTok India businessChina-based ByteDance – one of the most valuable start-ups with the backing of SoftBank, General Atlantic, KKR and Sequoia – is making investment at a time when the company is facing a ban in India. ByteDance has been valued at $75 billion in its most recent fund-raising.

The Madras High Court on April 3 had directed the Centre to ban TikTok app, saying it was evident from media reports that pornography and inappropriate content were made available through such mobile apps, PTI reported.

A ban on TikTok in India will negatively impact telecom operators such as BSNL, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio because telecoms depend on the growth of mobile data their networks powered by video.

Reliance Jio, which has more than 300 million phone customers on its 4G network, said the average data consumption reached 10.9 GB per user per month. Video consumption drove most of the usage, increasing to over 500 crore hours per month.

The success of TikTok is a bad news for Facebook, WhatsApp, among others. TikTok has surpassed Facebook and Instagram in number of downloads in January in US,
Asia Nikkei reported.

TikTok has been downloaded 1 billion times worldwide, according to mobile app tracker Sensor Tower. In January, TikTok added more than 6 million new users in the U.S. alone, overtaking Facebook and Instagram to become the No. 1 downloaded non-game app among American smartphone users.

ByteDance Director (International Public Policy) Helena Lersch said the company has been strengthening its content moderation policies over the last many months.

“We are disappointed by the current developments, but we are also very optimistic that we will resolve this issue. We remain committed to our Indian users. As a company, we are looking to invest $1 billion over the next three years in India, that is how bullish we will remain to be here,” Helena Lersch said.

The company would also be increasing the number of employees in India to 1,000 people by the end of this year. About 25 percent of that will be in content moderation team. TikTok has around 250 full-time staff right now.

TikTok, which allows users to create short videos and share them, has more than 120 million users in India and is popular among youngsters.

Following the Supreme Court’s refusal to stay the Madras High Court order, Google and Apple removed TikTok from their app stores in India to prohibit further downloads of the app.

Those who have already downloaded the app would be able to continue using it on their phones.

India is a critical market for social media platforms given the large population of 1.3 billion people.

“We have a content moderation team in India. We have increased the capacity of our content moderation team globally by 400 percent last year because we were prepared for the growth,” Helena Lersch said.

TikTok has a two-step approach for content moderation.

“First is a tech approach — a machine learning tool that filters content and then it goes to a content moderation team. In India, the team speaks 14 languages. I think, it is fundamentally important that the team is based in the country and speaks local languages to make culturally relevant decisions,” Helena Lersch said.

TikTok said it has removed around six million videos from the short video platform for violating its community guidelines.