As the Indian government is holding its grounds on more than 250 China-based applications ban, ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, has decided to lay off its 2,000 workforces in India.
The Chinese-origin firm has told its employees that it would only retain those in critical roles. According to a source aware of the matter (1), the development comes after New Delhi retained the ban on TikTok and other China-based apps last week.
ByteDance stated in an internal memo that it is left with no choice after the Indian government banned its app in late June in 2020. Moreover, the government offered no clear indication on when TikTok could return to the country, added the source.
“It is deeply regretful that after supporting our more than 2000 employees in India for over half a year, we have no choice but to scale back the size of our workforce. We look forward to receiving the opportunity to relaunch TikTok and support the hundreds of millions of users, artists, storytellers, educators, and performers in India.”
– TikTok Spokesperson (2).
The Course of Action
It is worth highlighting that before the ban, India was the biggest international market for TikTok. It had over massive 200 million monthly active users in the second largest internet market across the globe.
Last year, India had blocked more than 250 Chinese origin apps amid the geopolitical tension between the two nations. The Indian government stated that ‘these apps are engaged in activities that pose threats to their national defense and security. And it impinges on the sovereignty and integrity of India.’
Last week, the Indian government told ByteDance and several other Chinese firms that it maintain the solicitudes it had had originally charged against them and is looking to retain the ban.
While talking further about the development in a memo to the Indian workforce today, TikTok CEO Vanessa Pappas (3) and Blake Chandlee (4), VP of Global Business, stated that they had initially hoped the situation is short-lived and they would e able to resolve it quickly. However, they found out after seven months that it has not been the case.
She added that people had patiently waited to know how it would all play out, which has been stressful. Pappas also thanked people for their continued belief and trust in the firm.
“As one can imagine, a decision of this extent is not easy. For the past several months, the management team has tirelessly avoided separating anyone from the company. We’ve cut expenses while still paying benefits. However, we cannot responsibly stay fully staffed while our apps remain un-operational. We are fully aware of the impact that this decision has for all of our employees in India, and we empathize with our team.”
– Vanessa Pappas.
Pappas and Chandlee also added in the memo that they are not aware of when they would make a comeback in India. However, they are confident in their resilience and ambition to do so in times to come.
Regardless, the move has capped some of the confusing and strangest months for Indian ByteDance employees.
Notably, after the ban, the company had asked the workforce to focus on developing a range of other apps from the Chinese firm like its productivity suite Lark, which had not been banned in the country.
Moreover, the giant had also asked its Indian employees to not talk about these applications publicly to avoid putting the limelight on other ByteDance properties.
According to a source (5), ByteDance has also stopped all its marketing efforts and promoting its other services in India.
According to this week’s earlier reports, the ministry of electronics and IT had sent ByteDance and other Chinese firms notices after reviewing their replies on the ban.
According to Mint’s report (6), the IT ministry has issued fresh notices to TikTok and other 58 Chinese applications as the government is not satisfied with these companies’ responses. It seems like the government will not change its stance on the ban, and there is also speculation that India will ban the short-video app permanently.
A TikTok representative had quoted that the company is evaluating the notice and will respond to it as appropriate.
“We are evaluating the notice and will respond to it as appropriate. TikTok was among the first entities to comply with the Indian government’s directive issued on June 29, 2020. We continually strive to comply with local laws and regulations and do our best to address any government concerns. Ensuring the privacy and security of our users is our topmost priority.”
– TikTok Official, PTI.
The other banned apps include Vigo, CammScanner, UC Browser, Likee, ShareIT, and others. Besides social media apps, India has also banned several games such as PUBG Mobile, Clash of Kings, and Mobile Legends.
It is worth highlighting that regardless of the ban in June last year, TikTok was the second-most popular social media app in India. According to the Digital Trends-India, December 2020 report published by SimilarWeb, TikTok’s monthly user base grew to 100% from December 2018 to October 2020 (7).
TikTok Permanent Ban Good For India?
The Indian internet ecosystem is democratic, and a flurry of apps and sites flocks our devices every day. India has not refrained its citizens from the news flow or information from the outside world by blocking an unproductive app that offers cheap entertainment sources.
It is worth highlighting that the banned companies were fleecing users’ data and usage behavior patterns. There is no denying that they have a motif to hurt India’s national interest by disrespecting its data privacy laws.
Let’s not forget about the lame and cheapest source of nefarious content the platform offers, motivating viewers to become narcissist digital marauders.
India has never blocked social media, entertainment apps, news sites of the world ever. It remains free for legitimate apps that distribute information, news, entertainment, or communication to its citizen.
Notably, Facebook has over 300 million users, and Google has more than 400 million users in the country, and they continue to serve all Indians. The country has not fractured the internet by blocking a lurid app with a flawed business model and ambition to collect and analyze Indian citizens’ data. It has rather protected personal and national security.
Most Indian citizens are data naive, and it’s time for the country to protect them against all odds. There are several good alternatives to the banned apps from reputed companies worldwide. And if they firmly abide by the Indian laws and respect the users’ privacy, they are always welcome in the land irrespective of their country of origin (8).