TikTok ban: ByteDance planning to invest $1 bn in India, says Zhen Liu, SVP

NEW DELHI: The government ban on ByteDance-owned social media app TikTok has forced the seven-year-old Chinese startup to look into user safety rather than just growth in daily active users (DAUs) and monthly active users (MAUs).

Breaking their silence for the first time on the ban, in an exclusive interaction with ET, Zhen Liu, SVP, corporate development, ByteDance, said: “Promoting well-being of the content creators and users is our priority. We are not just looking at DAUs or MAUs but the well-being of users.”

Liu insisted to ET: “Eighty five percent of the users are adults. Short videos and user generated content is an important strategy for us. Mobile internet penetration is also picking up in India and the videos are becoming a lifestyle for people to express themselves and interact with others.”

She also insisted TikTok has “safety features like parental control (parents can set the time spent on the app)” and that it “has removed more than 6 million videos”. “We have faith in the Indian judicial system,” she said.

“We are constantly learning. We are in India for the long term. We are a very young company and this is the beginning of our journey. This is the market where we want to do the right things and we are very patient,” said Liu.

TikTok, used by 120 million in India, was on Monday banned by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) following reports of ‘offensive’ content being exchanged on the platform, particularly among teenagers.

The company is also planning to launch another app in India next month — a content/entertainment app platform. From a portfolio of 20 apps, ByteDance had made three available in India, the now-banned TikTok, Hello, which has 25 million users, and Vigo, with 20 million users, as per company claims.

ByteDance said it is planning to invest $1 billion in the India market. It has already invested $100 million in the last one year in the India operations, the company said.

The new investment will help set up local date centres, Byte-Dance said.

The company has 500 local staff — 200 of them focus on content moderation, the company claimed — and plans to hire 1,000 more.