Three months after the ban on 59 Chinese apps including ByteDance’s TikTok and Helo, India took another step to block access to 118 more apps from China including Tencent’s popular gaming app PUBG Mobile citing data security concerns.
Prominent names among the new 118 Chinese apps that were banned include PUBG Mobile Lite, e-commerce app Mobile Taobao, search engine Baidu, work collaboration tool WeChat Work, dating app TanTan, NetEase News, and others. The list includes Tencent’s seven apps including PUBG which had over 40 million monthly active users in the country in July.
“Although the company [Tencent] did clarify recently that all PUBG mobile data for players located in India is stored in India but the concerns have not been allayed completely,” Sanjeev Kumar, forecast analyst at Forrester told KrASIA.
This is the third round of ban by India on apps that have links with companies based in China. After the first ban was announced on June 29 which saw a long-term effect on the short-video industry in India, on July 23, the country banned mirror apps of the ones that were still functioning despite being blocked.
India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said the ban was put in effect after it “received many complaints from various sources including several reports about misuse of some mobile apps available on Android and iOS platforms for stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner to servers which have locations outside India.”
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The ban comes at a time when both the countries are in the midst of a heightening political turmoil over the two countries’ Himalayan borders.
IT ministry further said, “The compilation of these data, its mining and profiling by elements hostile to national security and defense of India, which ultimately impinges upon the sovereignty and integrity of India, is a matter of very deep and immediate concern which requires emergency measures.”
A month after the ban on TikTok was announced ByteDance said it has started storing user data in the country. “We have submitted our response to the government and are working with them to provide clarifications to allay the concerns they have. Throughout the duration of our operations, we have demonstrated an unequivocal commitment to complying with local laws, including data privacy and security requirements,” a TikTok spokesperson said in a statement.
Santosh Pai, a partner at Link Legal and Honorary Fellow, Institute of Chinese Studies, told KrASIA, that the intention behind the app ban and bringing in bigger names like Tencent and Baidu is to put economic pressure on China.
“As a tactic, it is very effective…but this tactic is only effective in the short term. The effectiveness of this tactic is coming to an end. It will have a minimal impact now. After banning some 200-230 Chinese apps, there will only be unknown Chinese apps left with less than one million users,” Pai said.
He added that even when the two superpowers have had disagreements over the border issue in the past, the major business communities in India and China believed that the two countries won’t allow political and economic relationships to get mixed.
“However, the Indian government decided that it was no longer possible to continue separating the two. This will change the way Chinese companies like Tencent or Alibaba think. They will no longer believe that they can come to India and do business without any correlation to border issues,” he said.
“The latest ban on PUBG announced by the Government has definitely led to an immediate catch-22 situation for hardcore PUBG gamers of India. However, we strongly believe this is just a temporary setback, and notwithstanding this ban, the gaming community and e-sports industry at large in our country shall continue to grow in the months and years to come,” said Saksham Kesri, co-founder of livestreaming platform, Rheo.
However, Kumar from Forrester said to succeed in gaming industry you need to create games that are supported on smartphones with a great multiplayer gameplay experience. “I don’t see any Indian game that has this kind of capability. It is going to be very difficult for Indian gaming companies to capture this opportunity.”