Battleground India: TikTok bests Facebook in round 1
With China having blocked Facebook, the US social media giant needs to ensure it gains traction with young Indians to retain its global dominance and benefit from the resultant network effects.
TikTok, owned by Chinese startup ByteDance, overtook Facebook as the most downloaded social networking application globally in the first quarter of 2019. It scored 188 million downloads, with India accounting for 47% of them, according to market intelligence firm Sensor Tower.
Facebook came second at 176 million with the largest chunk coming from India at 21%. At the end of 2018, Facebook had been the most downloaded application globally. To be sure, Facebook is used extensively on the desktop as well unlike the short-video app.
“What we see is going to be unique in the Indian market is that the next wave of 200-400 million joining the internet might experience TikTok as their first social media platform where they can share special moments of their lives with not only friends and family, but also with a global audience with similar interests,” TikTok said in an emailed statement.
‘NOT AN IMMEDIATE THREAT’
Facebook didn’t respond to queries. It has 300 million users in India, according to Statista, while TikTok has 200 million, of which 120 million are active on a monthly basis. In India, 67% of Internet users will be under 35 by 2020, according to Statista.
While TikTok is not an immediate threat to Facebook, which has the largest audience for advertisers, it is important for both to capture first-time, young internet users in India, according to advertising executives and media experts. “With 50% of India’s population under 25, and online video and short video platforms showing a meteoric rise, TikTok has become a leading social video app,” said Shekhar Sharma, vice president, digital media, GroupM. “Since it's limited to a niche category of short-form video, it's a distant threat to Facebook for now.”
TikTok recently embarked on monetising its operations in India and premier brands such as Pepsi, Snapdeal, Myntra, Shaadi-.com, Shopclues are lining up. A temporary ban imposed by Madras High Court over concerns it posed to a danger to children seems to have had no impact on its popularity.
“It is crucial for Facebook to retain dominance in India,” said Sanders Tran, a data analyst at Sensor Tower. “The country holds high prospects in the sense of having strong GDP growth and being the second-largest population in the world. Facebook is blocked in China, therefore India is its next best bet for acquiring large amounts of new users.”
Sensor Tower data show that India’s market share of worldwide downloads for all of Facebook’s apps across the App Store and Google Play Store was about 24.9% in 2018 versus 11.8% two years ago.
Experts believe that China’s rise as a tech powerhouse could become one of the dominant stories of the 2020s and the growing popularity of TikTok with teenagers globally may be an early indication that the next Facebook, Instagram or Twitter won’t be an American company. “We have to keep our eyes on the battle for the 13-year-olds who don’t yet have networks of friends established online,” said Kieley Taylor, managing partner, global head of social at GroupM.
Last year, Facebook released an app called Lasso that lets users create short videos designed to compete with TikTok. Also, taking a cue from the exponential growth of Tik-Tok in India, Facebook tied up with top labels in India to licence their music for use in videos, messages, stories and other creative content on Facebook and Instagram.
“TikTok is going to be competition to everyone, most certainly to Facebook,” said brand consultant Harish Bijoor. “There are two big markets in the world — China and India — where you have to dominate the lives of the young if you want to stay relevant. If you’re a betting man, you’d bet on TikTok.”