ByteDance India posts profit while Indian rival ShareChat reels under losses

While ShareChat is yet to find a revenue model, ByteDance has posted its maiden profit in India.

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ByteDance, owner of video and content apps TikTok, Helo, and Vigo Video, has not only surpassed its Indian competitor ShareChat in terms of number of users, but has also left it behind when it comes to raking money.

While the USD 78 billion worth Chinese internet giant has clocked in a profit of USD 479,000 on revenue of USD 6.1 million in India for the financial year ended March 2019, four-year-old ShareChat has posted a loss of USD 58.3 million—12 times more than the losses it posted a year ago.

ShareChat’s revenue rose 15-folds to USD 3.6 million in the corresponding period, thanks to the earnings from interest on investments and gains on the sale of investments.

Within two years of its operation in India, TikTok has started advertising on its platform, as well as boasts of 120 million monthly active users, compared to ShareChat’s 60 million monthly active users, which is yet to find a sustainable revenue model.

ByteDance’s other two apps, Helo and Vigo Video have 50 million and 20 million monthly active users in the country, respectively.

According to an Economic Times report, ByteDance, without elaborating, said revenue for the year came from “service fees” of USD 5.8 million and “advertising income” of USD 281,660. Meanwhile, the company spent USD 1.8 million in advertising, and content.

However, Local media Entrackr has raised doubts about ByteDance making money in India through Tik Tok.

It’s worth noting that the Indian entity (ByteDance India) offers services to ByteDance Singapore and it has nothing to do with TikTok, Helo, and Vigo directly, said the Entrackr report, adding Helo is owned by Delaware-based BytenDance Inc., Vigo is controlled by TikTok Singapore, and TikTok is a wholly-owned subsidiary of TikTok Inc.

While about 5% of the total revenue was earned from the sales of advertising, rest 95% came from service fees collected from TikTok Singapore during FY19, the report said. It also claimed that a huge chunk of ByteDance India’s expenditure was reimbursed by its Honk Kong and Singapore based parent companies.

ShareChat, in an email statement to KrAsia, said, “Our objective remains to scale up in the regional user-generated content space with the largest reach among the next billion internet users. We have also started working with brands to drive engaging consumer experiences as we start monetizing our platform.”

To acquire new customers and expand its presence, ShareChat, in FY19 has invested about USD 30 million on marketing, USD 10.5 million on promotions, and USD 2.8 million on business development. It also spent almost USD 500,000 on content review to ensure it doesn’t host pornographic and vulgar content.

The company, which counts Twitter, Shunwei Capital, Lightspeed Venture Partners, SAIF Capital, and Trust Bridge Partners as investors and has raised a total of USD 224 million, is currently valued at a little over USD 500 million.

Founded in 2015, by Ankush Sachdeva, Bhanu Pratap Singh, and Farid Ahsan, ShareChat in a recent interview, said it will be adopting an “ad-based” revenue model.

“Our revenue model will be ad-based. Till now, we have been completely focused on growth. However, we are not in this for the short-term,” Sunil Kamat, chief business officer, ShareChat told Business Insider.

“Our aim is to become one of the largest social networks in India, which means we will be heavily acquisition-based. Now that we have acquired users, it’s good to open up to partners, to reach the audience.”

Kamath also said the startup is in process of reaching out to brands to partner with them and that they would expand the team size to 400 from 250 people currently.

Earlier this year, ByteDance said it had invested USD 100 million in India in 2018 and will put in over USD 1 billion in the country over the next three years.

“The investment will be focused on various areas, including expanding our content partnerships across platforms, building tech infrastructure and expanding our workforce,” said Helena Lersch, director, global public policy at ByteDance in an interview in June. “We are currently in hyper-growth mode with more than 500 employees and we aim to have more than 1,000 employees by the end of 2019. One-fourth of this workforce will be dedicated to our content moderation efforts in India across our various platforms.”

The competition in India’s content and video segment has escalated with Chinese internet giant Alibaba investing USD 100 million in  Vmate, a three-year-old social video app owned by subsidiary UC Web, specifically for its expansion into the country. Globally, Vmate has 30 million users.

According to research firm Boston Consulting Group, the Indian over-the-top video streaming market is expected to grow to USD 5 billion mark by 2023 from USD 500 million in 2018.