How Bytedance Negotiated with Indian Regulators for Lifting the Ban on TikTok?
COVID-19 and China
Man capturing the moment using his iPhone. Photo: Credit to Dewang Gupta on Unsplash.

TikTok reappeared in India's app stores on April 30 following a ban imposed by regulators in one of the world's largest markets for Internet companies.

The ban was put in place on April 16 and after a period of intense negotiation and lobbying with the Indian government, Bytedance (字节跳动), the parent company of TikTok, has managed to get its popular video-sharing app back into the Google and Apple app stores.

During the time that TikTok disappeared from the app stores, the company reportedly was bleeding USD 500,000 a day.

While the ban was still enforced, Bytedance announced that it firmly believed "India's courts eventually will render justice."

According to a former director of Bytedance, who was responsible for one of the major overseas markets and chose to remain anonymous, the company and the Indian government struck a deal on two principal matters: massive jobs creation for the locals and helping the Indian authorities to monitor and navigate the content.

"Bytedance promised Indian Regulators that the content will be better controlled via AI, and the company will hire more locals," said the former director. "In addition to that, regulators have also taken the law into their own hands by better accessing, regulating and even using the content for their own agenda."

With hundreds of millions of Internet users, India is an irresistibly appealing market from the standpoint of China's Internet heavyweights. What's more, Indian mobile network operators provide the cheapest deals for mobile data consumption globally, which makes it particularly attractive for video-sharing apps and websites to conquer the market.

Tiktok, for instance, has 200 million registered users in India, making it the biggest overseas market for Bytedance; and several other Internet giants around the globe. 

Many observers speculate that the ban on TikTok was politically motivated as general elections approach in India, prompting the regulators to be tough on some companies in the Internet space.

Nevertheless, it is hard to assert whether and how the changes adopted by Bytedance will have a negative impact on its business in India.

So far it appears Bytedance is faring well. A week after the ban was lifted, TikTok ranked first in download volume on Google Play of India.

Indeed, sometimes all publicity is good publicity.

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