TikTok owner ByteDance to cut jobs in India after govt makes ban permanent
Shubham Verma January 27, 2021
TikTok owner ByteDance, based out of China, is slashing the workforce at its Indian office after the Indian government informed through a notice that the ban will continue. ByteDance told its India employees that it is reducing the size of its team and only the crucial roles will be retained. The job cuts at the TikTok owner's India office comes soon after ByteDance said it is seeking all ways through which it will be able to comply with laws in India after TikTok was banned last year. The Indian government had put a moratorium on TikTok and 118 other apps with linkage to China for posing a danger to the country's security.
"It is deeply regretful that after supporting our 2000+ employees in India for more than 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," a TikTok spokesperson told India Today Tech. "We have worked steadfastly to comply with the Government of India order issued on June 29, 2020. We continually strive to make our apps comply with local laws and regulations and do our best to address any concerns they have. It is therefore disappointing that in the ensuing seven months, despite our efforts we have not been given a clear direction on how and when our apps could be reinstated," it added.
The latest development paints a gloomy picture for ByteDance that has kept up its hopes that it would make a comeback in India's growing app market. The company said it was "left with no choice" after the latest notification from the Indian government restated the ban will continue and has become permanent.
The job cut may be a permanent one because ByteDance is finally beginning to realise that the ban is not going to be lifted. "We initially hoped that this situation would be short-lived and that we would be able to resolve this quickly. Seven months later, we find that has not been the case," TikTok CEO Vanessa Pappas and vice president of global business Blake Chandlee told ByteDance employees working in India in a letter obtained by TechCrunch. "Many of you have patiently waited to hear how this would play out, which has been very stressful. Thank you for your continued belief and trust in us," they wrote.
After the ban was implemented, ByteDance had reportedly told its employees to shift their focus on other apps that the company offers in India. One such app is Lark that offer productivity tools and was not banned by the government. But while the employees were turning to direct their energies towards Lark and other apps, ByteDance urged them not to talk about these apps in the public to avoid the risk of them getting in the limelight. Otherwise, these apps would have had to share the fortune of TikTok in India. The report further said that ByteDance even stopped its marketing campaigns to avoid any attention towards whatever was left of the company after TikTok was blocked.
TikTok's rise and fall in India
As of June 2019, it was estimated that TikTok had over 120 million monthly users in India, making the short-form video app the top-grossing app in its category. Not just India, TikTok is all the rage among people coming from all walks of life and who belong to various age groups in other parts of the world. But in India, TikTok became a conduit for millions to showcase their acting, singing, dancing skills, and other talents, available on a phone as cheap as Rs 5,000. The growth of TikTok was accelerated by the dirt-cheap internet with dollops of data available to use on a daily basis. TikTok even became a career option for many who would gather unprecedented fame from their followers on the platform. But the ban shattered their hopes.
Jealous of TikTok's success in India, bigwigs such as Facebook and Google jumped into the fray with their apps. One of them is Instagram Reels that offers an interface similar to TikTok and leverages the sound user base in the country. The disappointed TikTok users flocked to Reels to continue with their endeavours. But a large fraction of users chose "Made in India" apps, which came riding on the anti-China sentiment after the Galwan Valley skirmish. Some of these apps are MX TakaTak, Mitron, Chingari, and Roposo, which saw a huge influx of users after the TikTok ban. Over six months later, these TikTik users have very well acclimated to new apps but the fury over the ban still persists.
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