Beleaguered Chinese tech giant ByteDance, which took a body blow with the Indian government’s ban on TikTok and Helo in June, has frozen hiring and is said to be reviewing some senior management roles in India. While there is a cloud of uncertainty around the future of the company in India, is TikTok scaling back and retreating from the Indian market, even if temporarily.
With over 2,000 employees, ByteDance is running a massive operation in India with offices in Bengaluru, Delhi NCR and Hyderabad as well as several partners. According to an ET report, many of its employees are either quitting their positions or looking to exit.
ByteDance had been actively hiring since January, stepping up the pace with more users joining in the beginning of the lockdown. However, by the end of June, TikTok and Helo had been banned by India, forcing ByteDance to reevaluate plans. Later, ByteDance video creation app CapCut was also banned in the second wave of bans by India. Many employees are looking to move to TIkTok rivals, mirroring the migration of users to Indian TikTok alternatives.
As per reports, other mid and junior-level employees are seeking opportunities at competitors including Chingari, Trell, Bolo Indya, Sharechat’s Moj, DailyHunt’s Josh and Mitron. Bolo Indya CEO Varun Saxena told Inc42 it has received “over 70 applications so far from people working in TikTok and Helo” across positions such as language leads, community leaders and content moderators.
The development comes in the backdrop of ByteDance signing a flexible office-space deal for 1,250 seats at WeWork Nesco in Mumbai. Though ByteDance was planning to take up the office space before the ban came into the picture, it signed the deal on July 6. ByteDance did not comment on this deal.
India’s ban on over 100 Chinese apps, on the grounds of threat to data sovereignty of India, also included ByteDance-owned Helo. The US has also backed India’s move and is considering blocking Chinese apps such as TikTok from the country as well.
Soon after, ByteDance was said to be in talks with tech giants such as Microsoft and Twitter for a possible acquisition. Microsoft is said to be interested in acquiring TikTok’s business in India, along with the US and other European countries. Will an acquisition help TikTok come back to the Indian market?
The Chinese app not only led in terms of downloads until the last month before the ban in India, but it was also one of the most used apps. Indians spent over 5.5 Bn hours on TikTok in 2019, a startling increase from the 900 Mn hours in 2018. TikTok’s monthly active users (MAUs) grew by 90% to 81 Mn as of December 2019, with over 200 Mn daily active users.