More than two months after Tik Tok was banned, the story of short video apps in India is moving on two tracks - influencers are struggling to rebuild their fan base and compensate for the dip in their incomes while similar homegrown apps are enjoying the spike in the number of users.
So, 24-year-old beatboxer Jesus Mehta is trying to find a new home for his talents but Indian short video companies look at the absence of Tiktok as an opportunity to grow.
On June 29, the government banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok, leaving over 200 million users of the short video app feeling a little bereft and those like Mehta with significantly reduced earnings.
A month before joining a job that would have paid him a little under Rs 10,000, Mehta last January decided to make TikTok videos showcasing his beatboxing talent instead. A year later, he had a following of over two million. And what had so far been a hobby paid him at least Rs 60,000 a month.
Those glory days are over, at least for the moment, the Surat-based beatboxer said.
"The last two months haven't been smooth. TikTok was one of my sources of income. I also take online classes. TikTok alone earned me over Rs 60,000 monthly, and now it barely reaches Rs 20,000," Mehta told over the phone.
He would do brand collaborations and live performances on TikTok, where the audience could send gift points redeemable in cash rewards. He is now trying to rebuild his fanbase on Instagram and has so far got a little over 17,000 followers.
While there is no dearth of options, including Chingari, Roposo, Rizzle and Instagram Reels, many TikTok creators are still looking for the right platform. But they will have to start from scratch and wait for a long time before money starts coming in.
Yamuna Nagar-based TikTok creator Abheshek Garg said there are plenty of options available to create content but nothing comes close to TikTok in terms of audience reach and monetary benefits.
"A lot of people were actually relying on TikTok for their bread and butter. So it has been a huge setback. The reach that platform had was immense. No application comes close to that," Garg, a fashion and travel blogger who had over a million followers on TikTok, said.
"If you join any new platform, we won't get any monetary benefits because no brand associates with such new accounts or new applications. TikTok was well established, and it was growing massively in monetary terms," he added.
Though several similar apps existed in India along with TikTok, it was only after the ban that they registered a sudden spike in new users.
Roposo, a leading short-video platform in India, was launched in 2014. While it already had over 50 million downloads on Google Play Store, another 40 million users downloaded the app in the next two months after the TikTok ban.
However, the Bangalore-based social video platform doesn't think the entire credit goes to the ban.
According to Bikash Chowdhury, chief marketing officer of Glance, the parent company of Roposo, the application was already at the number one spot on the Google Play Store in the social app category in mid-June.
"Additionally, a few weeks back we introduced the Pride of India programme, a collaboration with Indian achievers like Babita Phogat, Chandro Tomar, Neel Ghose and Sangram Singh. The multifaceted programme provides these remarkable Indians a platform to mentor and inspire fellow Indians. This programme has seen a lot of engagement," he said.
Vidya Narayanan, CEO and co-founder of Rizzle which was launched in June 2019, also believes it wasn't the TikTok ban that made the app popular but the content by its creators who continue to "set new records and inspire new creators to join the tribe".
"Finding hundreds and even thousands of videos per creator profile on the feed is not uncommon on Rizzle. Our users surprised us with tweet storms for Rizzle and now it's a regular regime for them. They even started fan pages on Instagram and Facebook. This is a community that is going to town for this app. It is their initiative," Narayanan said.
Since the ban on the popular app, some leading 'TikTokers', including Khushi Punjaban, who had over 18 million followers for her comedy and dance videos on the banned app, model Neetu Bisht with nearly seven million followers, and chef Rashika Punjabi with 2.8 lakh followers, joined Roposo. Masterchef India finalist Geetha Sridhar, who had over a million followers, and 'This is Sumesh' (short comic videos) with one million followers on TikTok, joined the Rizzle app.
Sumit Ghosh, founder of Chingari, sees the scattered migration of top TikTok creators as an opportunity for short-video companies to coexist and even grow together.
"TikTok ban has created a kind of a gold rush, hundreds of tech startups are rushing to this space... In this space, we believe there can be multiple players, they can coexist. Our plan anyway was to coexist with TikTok and grow so I think the differentiating factor will be the content genre," Ghosh said.
Launched in November 2018, the Chingari app currently registers two-three million daily active users.
Ghosh added that Chingari's focus is to build micro creators instead of going after influencers or TikTok stars.
The very multiplicity of options can also be a problem.
Without disclosing details, mental health speaker Gaurav Jain said his earnings had reduced "significantly" after the TikTok ban. He sees the availability of multiple platforms as a reason behind the division of his follower base on TikTok, which may further cause a delay in getting back the same popularity.
"I think that followers have got distributed on so many different platforms since the TikTok ban. If I had a million followers on TikTok, two lakh might be using Roposo, another lakh might be using Takatak.
"The creator will have to kind of recreate their audience. Some might recognise you from your face maybe, but I don't think the exact one million followers come back to me on another platform. I totally have to rebuild my audience," the Delhi-based influencer, with over a million TikTok followers, said.