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Indian startups rush in to fill the gap left by the ban on 59 Chinese apps

A slew of Indian apps such as Mitron TV, Chingari, Roposo, and others have seen a surge in app downloads.

It seems that the seed which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sowed in people’s mind for the need to build local products and being self-reliant, earlier in June, has begun to sprout leaves. Modi’s slogan of being “Vocal for local,” gave Indian founders—who were building indigenous consumer-facing tech products—a stamp of approval.

Earlier this week, when India banned 59 Chinese mobile apps, including popular video-sharing app TikTok, Helo, and messaging platform WeChat, citing security threats, it opened new doors for alternative products that were made in India.

Without wasting any time, ShareChat, which competes with ByteDance’s two banned apps, Helo and TikTok, launched its own short video platform Moj. Aprameya Radhakrishnan, co-founder and CEO of Vokal, a peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing platform, also launched a micro-blogging platform, Koo.

“We already are Vokal for Local and now here’s us introducing our second super exciting product – ‘Koo’ – Desi Microblogging,” Radhakrishnan said in a recent tweet.

Bengaluru-based Sharechat, the five-year-old company has positioned its new short-video app as “India’s own short video app,” which would not only allow users to watch millions of videos specifically selected as per their interest, but will also give them a chance to meet “tens of millions of celebrities  and talented artists from around the world.”

“People from Tik Tok, Viva Video, Vigo Video, New Video Status, Vmate, U Video, SelfieCity, Beauty Plus, YouCam makeup, Wonder Camera, Photo Wonder, Sweet selfie, Hago are welcome to 100% Made in India Short Video App by ShareChat,” the app’s description said. Moj, currently available in 15 languages, including Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, and Punjabi, among others, has already been downloaded by 50,000 users on Google Play.

Startup

Read this: TikTok and other banned Chinese apps to present their case to Indian authorities

Meanwhile, Mitron, a TikTok-like video-sharing app, on Wednesday raised an undisclosed amount from Bengaluru-based VC firm 3One4 Capital in its first round of venture capital funding. “We are happy to be working with the MitronTV team to help build a grounds-up social video experience for India. We are excited to help build an India-first product that upholds strict data integrity, user privacy, and transparency,” Pranav Pai, Managing Partner, 3one4 Capital, said.

Launched by two software engineers Shivank Agarwal and Anish Khandelwal during the peak of the lockdown in April, it became an overnight success in the country reaching 5 million downloads in about a month’s time.

It is to be noted that the Indian firm Mitron TV Pvt. Ltd. had bought the source code from a Pakistan-based tech startup  Qboxus, and had built upon it to roll out the app just in time to tap millions of Indians who were forced to stay indoors. At present, it has over 10 million downloads on Google Playstore.

Flipkart is also trying to expand into social e-commerce, a segment that many Chinese firms and VCs have been eyeing, given the success of the companies in the space in their home market. A local media Economic Times (ET), citing sources said Walmart-owned Flipkart is piloting a new social commerce platform, 2GudSocial, which will focus on influencer-led video commerce to target consumers from small towns and lower-income groups.

The ban of the 59 Chinese apps, industry veterans said, is a good opportunity for the local apps to grow rapidly and build their user base. Indeed, in the days following the ban, many homegrown video sharing apps including Roposo and Chingari have seen a sudden surge in their app downloads.

Roposo, which, India’s mobile advertising technology unicorn InMobi, acquired late last year, claims to have crossed 10 million downloads, while Chingari said, it has seen its app installs grow from 100, 000 to 10 million.

“This ban gives a unique opportunity to Indian technology entrepreneurs to build and own some of the most highly used internet products,” Vokal’s Radhakrishna told ET.