Why Indians have taken the lead on TikTok | India Today Insight

Why Indians have taken the lead on TikTok | India Today Insight

TikTok, the breakout social media app owned by the Beijing-based ByteDance, has done the unthinkable. It has dethroned Facebook in terms of the number of downloads. Last year, TikTok hit 1.5 billion downloads worldwide with India leading the pack, contributing to nearly 44 per cent of those downloads. The numbers are staggering for an app that entered the market in its current shape just three years ago. Ask Shivani Kapila, a TikTok influencer who has 7.8 million followers about her journey, and you’ll understand why it has become a rage among teens and adults alike in semi-urban areas.

Kapila, who makes popular videos about how people should respect their elders or about internet safety for teenagers, took to TikTok as a hobby initially. However, since racking up likes–she has 193.3 million likes currently–she quit her job as a human resource professional and became a full-time content-creator on the platform. Recently, she hosted a show with Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty and her husband Raj Kundra.

Similarly, Yuvraj Singh, who has nearly three million followers, uses his account to show off his dance moves. His imitation of Michael Jackson’s iconic pop-style to the tunes of popular Bollywood songs like Muqabla (originally featuring Prabhudeva), was noticed even by actor Hrithik Roshan, who tweeted one of his videos, asking “Who is this man?” Yuvraj has now danced with several other stars, like Tiger Shroff and Varun Dhawan.

TikTok is famous for its entertaining short-videos but there are several reasons that underline its success. One, TikTok allows users to download their videos easily or upload them to other platforms (like WhatsApp) directly. It’s why there are so many YouTube compilations of TikTok videos. Two, TikTok offers a very high engagement rate, says Manveer Malhi, a digital marketing professional. What that means is that TikTok rewards videos that are interesting enough to hold the audience’s attention. Though it’s not entirely clear if TikTok’s “For You” page–the page you land on when you open the app to see the trending videos–are curated on the basis of the retention rate alone, the platform allows a lesser-known creator’s videos to go viral as long as it is interesting. In August last year, VICE tried to find out from the company about the “For You” algorithms, but got no response. What we do know is that the algorithm is unlike Instagram’s “Explore” page where users are more likely to see content from those they follow. Consider Manjul Khattar, a very popular social media star who has 13 million followers on TikTok.

The other reasons why TikTok has really taken off among the youth living in semi-urban areas have to do with the aesthetics of the platform. Unlike Instagram, where you have to put your best foot forward, TikTok thrives on authenticity, says Akash Senapaty, product head at m56 studios, an agency that specialises in creating digital experiences like mobile gaming. You don’t have to pose at a fancy restaurant or put on your best clothes to make your videos work. Most popular content creators are regularly seen in their homes, their terrace, or the roadside in their towns and villages. There are no demands on dressing up or looking glamorous.

The biggest factor, however, is that TikTok allows users to shoot, edit and add music and effects within the app itself. A large number of Indians who don’t have access to other shiny gadgets, like a camera or editing software, turn to the app because it has everything they need. On Instagram, users typically upload videos they have produced using pro-editing tools on their computers or via another app. On YouTube, content creators spend hours making their videos, whether it is a make-up tutorial or a movie review, or even political content.

That TikTok has become the one-stop social media platform is guided by strategy that went into launching the app in the first place. ByteDance first launched Douyin, the version of TikTok meant for a Chinese audience in 2016. In 2017, ByteDance acquired Chinese-founded Musical.ly, the lip-syncing app that was popular among teens across Europe and the US. In 2018, ByteDance merged the two and launched what became the international version of Douyin, TikTok. In other words, TikTok was built on the backs of Musical.ly.

Besides the power of the platform itself, there’s a deeper reason why the app has resonated with Indians. The average Indian is not empowered enough, explains Vivan Marwaha, who is writing a book on Indian millennials. For the first time, creators are making decisions for themselves, and are exploring their ideas, without having others chiming in.

Source: India Today

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