It's the time of the ban, boycott and abandonment – in just a few weeks, 1,032 brands have joined the #StopHateForProfit worldwide Facebook boycott campaign. India has decided to ban 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok and WeChat, while technology giants Google, Facebook and TikTok have decided to leave Hong Kong due to its new security laws.

The common thread between them is the integration of geopolitics and technology. Both continue to influence the other's sphere of influence. With the emergence of nationalist sentiments, countries are increasingly examining potential national security threats from data leaks and subjecting software and hardware companies, particularly those owned and operated by foreign companies, to stricter controls, standards, and guidelines. In some cases we have seen total prohibitions.

At least this seems to be the case when the Indian Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology blanketly banned 59 mobile apps – all from Chinese companies – from being involved in activities that compromise India's sovereignty and integrity, defending India, security of the state and public order ”.

Geopolitics and border disputes

China and India – the two largest Asian economies, both nuclear powers that share a 4,056 km border – had frequent low-intensity hotspots under geopolitical tensions. They last went to war in 1962, when the dragon caught the elephant unprepared and de facto secured control of Aksai Chin in the Himalayan region, an area claimed by both countries. In their honor, the two nations have jointly taken confidence-building measures and signed several agreements that have prevented the use of firearms at the border to prevent escalations. No rounds have been fired at the Chinese-Indian border in Ladakh since the end of the war 58 years ago.

An unbalanced economic tango

In economic terms, bilateral trade between the two nations has rapidly expanded to $ 85-95 billion in recent years, although the $ 50 billion trade deficit is largely in favor of China (although China is the third largest market for Indian exports is in 2019). This has always been a point of understandable concern and argument for the Indian administrators. India imports almost 70% of its bulk medicines and intermediates, 37% of its electronic components, 45% of its consumer electronics and 44% of its air conditioning and refrigeration parts.

Chinese hardware brands such as Xioami, Oppo, Vivo, Realme and OnePLus controlled over 80% of the market share in India in early 2020. Two of these brands are main sponsors of cricket in the country, a sport that is more like a religion and one that binds the heterogeneous nation. The yawning deficits are not limited to trade alone, but also to categories such as foreign direct investment in startups and tourism – in both cases, China has the upper hand.

Why a general ban and why now?

It is important to have this geopolitical and commercial context as a background for discussing the recent ban on Chinese mobile apps in India if nothing significant has changed in the way these apps work in the past three months. Even if TikTok India categorically refused to share information with China, why should you punish the other 58 without a thorough investigation if there was a real case against this particular app, as is evident in other parts of the world? It is very likely that this decision is a political decision and is a response to the current tensions between India and China – tensions that have recently led to the first deaths along the controversial border in over 40 years.

Why not a bigger ban for a bigger signal and a bigger impact?

While the jury is not sure whether this general prohibition is legally justifiable, the goal should be to send a signal to people across the border and to demonstrate complete economic independence. Why not be brave and distance yourself? India could have banned large mobile apps and startups in India that have raised over $ 4 billion from Chinese investors such as Tencent, Alibaba and Ant Financial, including Zomato, PayTM, Quikr, Ola, Flipkart, MakeMyTrip, Dream 11, Rivigo, Udaan and Oyo, PolicyBazaar, delivery; Some of the best known of the 18 out of 30 unicorns in India that operate with funds raised in China.

What about the big Chinese smartphone and device brands, which not only own 80% of the category in India, but are also among the largest sponsors / advertisers in the country?

Why not ban other Chinese and American-made consumer goods like Apple, Nike or Adidas?

How and where do you draw the line to "Made in / by China"? Which brands deserve a ban or boycott?

I personally am not sure if these knee jerk bans and boycott stunts will do anything to resolve the ongoing geopolitical tensions on the Himalayan border (they are better tackled diplomatically), but they definitely help in that Jingoistic, nationalist gallery play and could have potential impacts and implications for Indian creators, brands and the startup ecosystem.

Ban and boycott to copy and paste?

Given India's dependence on Chinese imports in critical areas such as drugs, electronics and machinery, and China's third largest export market, the Indian economy should be prepared for potential economic shocks if the Chinese government decides to retaliate against them.

On the other hand, some Indian entrepreneurs believe that although this was not the intended goal of the ban on mobile apps, the government has actually given startups a great opportunity to use the app ban to create new and innovative apps. as Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chairman and CEO of Biocon, put it.

Read more at:… this community serves to confirm Prime Minister Modi's ambitious call for "Make In India". An initiative launched four years ago to strengthen economic independence through local innovation, manufacturing and development. It was recently strengthened by the $ 280 billion Atmanirbhar Abhiyan package in May this year to help India recover from the effects of the coronavirus.

If you have to stick to the indications of the past week, you have only seen the limited success of controversially developed copycat products. Several local TikTok wannabe fans had reported massive download and usage spurts immediately after this ban (Chingari had 300,000 downloads an hour, 850,000 users saw 2.2 million video swipes an hour), but it's still far from the massive success that enjoyed the original app before the ban.

TikTok, which had 500 million downloads in India (a quarter of its global installation base), reached more than 40% of the total smartphone user base in India. Post-Ban fell to around 10%, while Chingari and Mitron grew to 5%, Roposo to around 7% and Sharechat to around 15%.

In terms of usage and time, Indian users spent more than 50 minutes a day using TikTok before the ban. While this has dropped to about 5 minutes, the use of Indian apps is between 5 and 22 minutes – still a long way to go before mimicking TikTok's earlier success.

In the interest of the 1.2 million Indian creators who flocked to TikTok, I hope that localized colleagues will grow and offer equivalent income opportunities. The majority of these creators were non-English speaking people from rural towns who do not have the privilege of having an acceptable cultural and economic background. TikTok gave them an opportunity to express themselves and a unique source of income as an influencer, which totaled around $ 16 million.

These local apps may be spared competition from China's TikTok, but they are likely to face stiff competition from Reels, Instagram & # 39; s "Answer to Tik Tok" (according to Adam Mosseri) and YouTube's shorts are expected to appear in India soon. The two global digital giants are likely to use this opportunity as a test bed to lure the Indian creators who came to TikTok before they were released on a large scale in other markets.

Meanwhile, Reliance Jio, which has closed 12 deals in the past 12 weeks to raise over $ 15.6 billion from some of the world's largest tech and private equity giants, has launched two me-too products launched JioMeet and JioChat. The user interfaces of both apps (UI) seem to be very similar to Zoom or WhatsApp and could possibly be subjected to legal steps – but with a war chest from the sky, this would probably be the least problem of Ambani.

Interestingly, my LinkedIn feed has been decorated with controversial chats about whether these copycat innovations are clever moves or shameless, desperate acts that wear the robe of "Atmanirbharta" (independence) in a nationalistic environment.

An opportunity for recalibration through political and competitive innovations

While the early reaction to lazy copycat innovations indicates that despite the ban on 59 Chinese apps, there is a real opportunity for Indian startups to innovate in these unprecedented times while the world is recalibrating – not just to solve local problems, but something to develop, that can be scaled and adopted globally.

For the ecosystem in India, it is important to distance yourself from the temptation to create the Indian version of Western or Chinese success, but to create it from within. And as Ronnie Screwvala, a successful Bollywood producer and co-founder of upGrad, recently said in an article: “The only and long way to create an innovation culture is education, paired with a robust, result-oriented ecosystem with soft skills and accepting failure as likely Result ".

To promote this change in mindset and approach, the Indian government must go beyond creating a breast-feeding, protectionist environment and focus on creating an environment that fosters healthy local and foreign competition. one that pursues investor and founder-friendly policies. It must create a regime that protects and respects intellectual property. Promotion of entrepreneurship within the education system and introduction of the much needed and expected data protection law to protect the nation, its companies and its citizens.

Bans and boycotts may be fashionable in our increasingly polarized world today, and while they can reinforce political attitudes, they will not serve as a long-term geopolitical solution, nor can they be a long-term strategy to drive innovation. ExxonMobil, ex-CEO Lee Raymond, said it well: "Without competition, the spectacular development of technology that we have seen in this country over the past hundred years would not have happened."

Prantik Mazumdar is the managing partner of Happy Marketer

This article was written by Prantik Mazumdar of The Drum and legally licensed through the NewsCred publishing network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Originally published on July 14, 2020 at 3:03 p.m.


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