Last week, the ministry of information technology banned 59 Chinese apps in India on the grounds of threat to the data sovereignty and security of the country. The official statement from the IT ministry said that the government had to look into the apps after many complaints in the public domain about alleged rampant data collection from Indian users.
According to a Techcrunch report, the 59 apps had an installed base of over 330 Mn in June 2020 quarter and had a combined monthly active user base of 505 Mn. TikTok, UC Browser, ShareIT, ES FileExplorer, Clash Of Kings, Helo, Likee, CamScanner, Shein were among the apps barred. TikTok, which has over 200 Mn monthly active users in India, was by far the biggest casualty, and the app is now also under pressure in the US market.
With the ByteDance-owned app blocking its services in India, influencers have now been forced to look for newer platforms to build their following. Mitron, Chingari, Bolo Indya, Instagram Reels and others have emerged as the new frontrunners for the exodus from TikTok. Beyond the social media platforms, other alternatives such as apps to replace CamScanner have also got high profile launches in the past week.
But beyond just downloads and monthly active users, the apps and the companies behind them have also been deeply impacted by the ban. Many of these companies had a big workforce in India, and the social media platforms among the banned apps were also the revenue and income source for millions of influencers, who now have to look for alternatives.
So the impact is widespread and reaches across segments. Here are all the 59 Chinese apps banned by India and how their exit will influence the Indian market.
The 59 Chinese Apps Banned By India
TikTok: The most high-profile of the apps banned, TikTok’s short videos have created a whole new genre of social media content. The app was first launched in China in 2016 and entered India after the acquisition of Musical.ly in 2018. Since then, it is said to have reached 2 Bn global downloads in April 2020, of which India accounted for almost 30% of the total app installs. TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance has 126 offices around the world including India. The ban on TikTok is estimated to have caused a loss of $6 Bn for ByteDance, according to reports in China.
SHAREit: Launched by Chinese tech giant Lenovo in 2013, SHAREit was hived-off as a separate company with Michael Qiu as the founder. It started out as a file transfer utility but has grown on to become a multimedia platform as well with OTT integrations. In June 2019, SHAREit reported having 1.8 Bn plus global users, with 40% of its user base coming from India. Launched in 2015, the company claims to have 500 employees globally including 133 Indian employees, as indicated by their Linkedin profiles. SHAREit has acquired OTT platform FastFilmz in May 2018 and appointed FastFilmz founder Karam Malhotra as SHAREit CEO soon after.
UC Browser: One of the most popular browsers in India due to the fact that it is pre-installed on many devices, UC Browser is developed by a subsidiary of Alibaba Group, UCWeb. After entering the Indian market in 2011, the browser claimed to touch 100 Mn user mark in 2016. Later by 2018, UC Browser had achieved 130 Mn monthly active users in India — besides browsing, it engaged with users through content discovery partnerships with media companies. A Linkedin search indicates that 56 people are employed at UC Browser in India.
Kwai: Tencent-backed company Kwai had exited Indian a few weeks before the official ban. The platform had notified its users to move to its affiliate app UVideo, which converts photos and videos into video status that can be later posted on other platforms. Kwai claimed to have over 100 Mn app downloads in India. Further, 71 Linkedin profiles claim to be employed by Kwai in India.
Shein: Founded in 2008, Shein has constantly been in the eye of controversy in India — whether it is to do with avoiding customs duty by passing orders off as gifts or its cutthroat competition with Indian ecommerce players.
Just a year after entering India in 2018, the company had reported 5 Mn app downloads in the country. The company claims to be spread across 220 countries. Around 10 Linkedin profiles from India mention Shein as their current employer.
Clash of Kings: Developed by Elex Tech in 2014, Clash of Kings is a multiplayer strategy game. The game had over 50 Mn downloads, and 4.1 stars before being banned in India earlier this month. It has been on the top-grossing list of App Store and Play Store since its release. The company only has offices in China and Brazil.
Baidu Map: Similar to Google Maps or Apple Maps, this mobile navigation platform offers satellite imagery, street maps, street view, and indoor view perspectives of any location. It also has a route planner feature for commuters traveling by foot, car, or public transportation. Launched in 2005, the app was focused on outbound Chinese tourists and was only available in Chinese language. Baidu Maps claimed to have 350 Mn active users globally in 2017.
DU Battery Saver: Also developed by Chinese tech giant Baidu, this free battery saver app claims to put apps in hibernation on Android devices and as such had full device access to enable these functionalities. The company claimed to have 400 Mn worldwide downloads in 2016. Linkedin lists 13 employees working at DU Battery Saver’s parent company Baidu in India. Even before the Indian ban, DU Battery Saver has been in the news for malicious advertising, based on user reports.
Helo: ByteDance-owned Helo is similar to ShareChat and offers a vernacular social media platform for multimedia content in regional languages. The company claims to have over 40 Mn monthly active users across India and Bangladesh, covering 14 regional languages including Bengali, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, Marathi, and Gujarati. Its parent company, ByteDance has 126 offices around the world including India. Last year, after the Madra High Court passed an order banning TikTok, some Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders had also looked to ban Helo.
Likee: Bigo Technology-owned Likee is a global short video creation platform with features like visual effects, 4D magic, dynamic stickers, video shooting and editing. With a presence in over 150 countries, the company claims to have over 400 Mn downloads in India. Further, 169 people claim to be employed by Bigo Technologies in India.
YouCam Perfect: Owned by Perfect Corp, YouCam is a photo editing app with features like auto beautifying effects, image cutouts, hands-free selfies, and make frames, collages among other things. In 2019, the company claimed to have 3.5 Mn monthly active users in India and the app regularly featured among the top downloaded free apps. However, a search on Linkedin turned up just one Perfect Corp employee in India.
Mi Community: Xiaomi’s official community forum app for all Xiaomi and Redmi smartphone users is full of tips, tricks questions, doubts, and the latest news about Xiaomi products. The app comes pre-installed on all Mi phones. Among the companies whose apps have been banned, Xiaomi is by far the largest employer, though it does have other businesses in India besides the app. It has created 10K jobs in India and owned 30% of India’s smartphone market in Q1 2020.
CM Browser: A browser developed by the notorious Cheetah Mobile, CM Browser was not a major player in India and certainly not as big as UC Browser. The parent company employs six people in India, as per Linkedin.
Virus Cleaner: The generically-named antivirus app has features such as efficient security master, phone junk cleaner, WiFi security, super speed booster, battery saver, CPU cooler and notification cleaner. The company claims to have 10 Mn global downloads on Google Play Store.
APUS Browser: One of the newer browsers on the Google Play Store, APUS claimed to be built for internet browsing on low-end smartphones even on a 2G connection. It had an in-built ad blocker and passed websites through a data compression service to help save mobile cellular data, similar to the feature seen on Chrome. Its parent company APUS Group has an India office in Gurugram and as per LinkedIn, the company has 7 employees in India.
ROMWE: Started in 2010, Romwe is a fast-fashion brand with a focus on women’s wear. The company employees 113 people (worldwide) and it’s not clear if it had local operations in India. ROMWE was among the slew of Chinese ecommerce companies focussing on fast fashion and affordable accessories.
Club Factory: Like Shein and ROMWE, Club Factory was a pacesetter in the Indian fashion ecommerce market and often outran competitors with its aggressive pricing. In 2018, the platform claimed to have 40 Mn users from India, out of its total 70 Mn global user base. ClubFactory is estimated to have about 200 employees in India, based on Glassdoor and Linkedin listings.
Newsdog: It is a news and entertainment content aggregation platform. The company claimed to have over 50 Mn users from India in 2018. Before the ban, it was one of the top news aggregation platforms in India along with UC News, Inshorts and DailyHunt. Newsdog has offices in multiple Indian cities, including in Pune and Gurugram.
Beauty Plus: This photo-editing app developed by the mobile internet company Meitu uses proprietary facial recognition and artificial intelligence technology to provide features AR masks, professional photo retouch tools, and auto-beautification capabilities. The company claimed to have more than 300 Mn global users in 2018, though its India download figures are unclear.
WeChat: The most renowned Chinese app does everything in China, but in India it was just a chat app, competing against WhatsApp and Telegram. Launched in 2011, WeChat was valued at $500 Bn in May 2020, making it one of the most valuable companies in the world. It was reported to have 1.17 Bn monthly active users in Q1 2020 and has 96 employees in India as per Linkedin results.
UC News: A news aggregation platform UC News comes integrated with the UC Browser and is owned by the Alibaba group. The company claims to have 50 Mn India users.
QQ Mail: It is a part of Tencent’s instant messaging platform, QQ, which was launched in 1999. Following the widespread popularity of QQ, the company added an email service called QQMail in 2005. It is said to have 500 Mn global users, though a majority of them are in China.
Weibo: It is China’s alternative to the global microblogging platform Twitter. Weibo was launched in 2009 and claimed to have 448 Mn monthly active users globally in 2018. The company employees 820 people from India, according to Linkedin results. Recently, the Indian government account posts on Weibo were deleted and soon after the ban, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi deactivated his account on Weibo.
Xender: Established in 2011, Xender is a file sharing and transfer platform similar to SHAREit. It enables users to transfer files of all types and sizes without using an internet connection. The company claims to have 500 Mn global users and is available in 30 different languages. Linkedin lists 38 people as employees of Xender in India.
QQ Music: This freemium online music streaming app is owned by Tencent Music which is a joint venture between Tencent and Spotify. In 2018, QQ Music was reported to have over 700 Mn users worldwide.QQ Music did not have any impact on the Indian market where free services like Gaana, JioSaavn and others rule the roost.
QQ Newsfeed: Another browser and news app banned by the government, QQ Newsfeed is owned by Tencent and features real-time news browsing, personalised alerts, privacy mode and a night mode.
Bigo Live: Founded in 2014, Bigo Live is a live streaming app which enables users to share live videos with their followers or other users. The company had reported 22 Mn monthly active users in India, as of February 2020.
SelfieCity: It is a photography app integrated with dozens of image filters and also has options to make a photo collage. The app is owned by Chinese mobile internet company Meitu.
Mail Master: NetEase-owned Mail Master is an email app, which allows users to login from any of their email accounts like Outlook, Gmail, Rediff etc.
Parallel Space: One of the handier apps on Android, Parallel Space allows users to run multiple accounts of the same app at the same time. So users could have two WhatsApp accounts on the same phone belonging to different numbers as long as the SIMs are inserted, among other apps. The Ibe Tech-owned app claims to have 90 Mn users worldwide.
Mi Video Call – Xiaomi: Xiaomi’s official video call for all Mi users and comes pre-installed on all Mi phones. Besides selling its smartphones in India, the Chinese tech giant has invested in companies such as Sharechat, Hungama, and Getsamosa. With options like Google Duo, WhatsApp available, Mi Video Call did not offer anything unique and as such the app would not be missed by too many users.
WeSync: The Tencent-owned app allows users to maintain a common address book, even if they are using multiple phones. It acts like a safe deposit box for phone numbers and other key information on the mobile phone. The app is reported to have over 1Mn global downloads.
ES File Explorer: This ES Global-owned app serves as a file manager and explorer for android devices. It also has features such as cloud storage sync, file transfer, and a root browser.
Viva Video – QU Video Inc: This videography and editing app has all basic video editing features including cut, trim, add music, crop and merge video among others. It has over 1 Bn global downloads and noted India as one of its biggest markets. Linkedin lists 18 people as employees of Viva Video in India.
Meitu: A free photo editing app which enables users to beautify their photos, add text, apply filters, animate and blur out backgrounds among other features, Meitu claims to have over 50 Mn downloads worldwide with most being from China.
Vigo Video: A video-sharing app which allows users to discover new people and create video content with the help of integrated filters, stickers and effects. It has over 1 Bn downloads around the world.
New Video Status: Meant purely as a WhatsApp video status make, this app offers a range of short videos options that users can directly share on WhatsApp.
DU Recorder: It is a screen recording app with additional features such as screen capture, video recorder, and video editor. DU Recorder can be used to record game videos, video calls, and live shows among other things.
Vault-Hide: The app enables users to hide photos and videos on their phone. Vault’s features include app lock, privacy bookmark, incognito browser, and cloud backup among others. The company has over 100 Mn users worldwide.
Cache Cleaner DU App Studio: It is a cache and junk file cleaning app, that claims to boost the speed of one’s phone and free up phone memory. The app has over 230 Mn users globally, however, like most apps of its kind, this cleaner app is not essential for Android phones despite their widespread use.
DU Cleaner: Like Cache Cleaner, this free app also cleans up system cache and trash files, frees up space on internal or external storage by removing junk files.
DU Browser: DU Browser is a free mobile browser for Android devices. It also has n element of news discovery like most browsers and displays important information such as news, videos, music, sports updates and memes without the user needing to search.
Hago Play With New Friends: Hago is a social networking app with additional features like games, group chat, and live streaming. It has over 100 multiplayer games on the platform and over 1Bn downloads around the world.
Cam Scanner: It is a document scanning app, that converts scans into pdfs and jpegs, which can be then be shared over social media or email. The app also has features like convert image to text, batch scanning, and personal ID mode, among other features. The app has over 1Bn downloads globally.
Clean Master – Cheetah Mobile: Clean Master is a security app that promises antivirus protection and private browsing to users but has been found collecting private web browsing data of users. The app was reported to have over 1Bn downloads globally, as of March 2020.
Wonder Camera: Wonder Camera is a photography and editing app with features like wink to take a selfie, as well as popular filters and effects for selfie photographs.
Photo Wonder: This photo editing app can help users create collages, take selfies with real-time filters, and add beauty features to their portraits. According to Sensor Tower, this app has over 200 Mn users across 218 countries.
QQ Player: Mobile QQ player is a video player application for Android smartphones and is compatible with multiple video formats such as AVI, FLV, MP4, 3GP, MKV, MOV etc. QQ Player also supports subtitle files and multiple audio tracks switching. The app is estimated to have around 5Mn to 10Mn global downloads.
We Meet: It is a video chatting app to discover and chat with strangers anywhere in the world, based on your interests. It has around 2 Mn downloads globally.
Sweet Selfie: A free photo editing app, Sweet Selfie features face tune, body retouch, blur background, art filters, live stickers, makeup effects and more. The app has over 100 Mn downloads globally.
Baidu Translate: Baidu Translate is a translation app available in 16 popular languages, similar to Google Translate. It also offers features like real-time speech-to-speech translation and camera translation to its users.The app is said to have over 50K global downloads and in India it was primarily used by Chinese tourists and business travellers.
VMate: It is a video editor enabling easy edits and sharing. Creators can share video stories, and discover moments from all over India and nearby people. The app is available in three languages including English, Hindi, and Punjabi. As of January 2020, VMate was reported to have 50 Mn active users in India.
QQ International: It is a communication app with options like video calls, voice chats, and texting. It also has a built-in translator and photo sharing features to help people overcome language barriers. The app claims to have over 1Bn registered users across 80 countries.
QQ Security Center: QQ Security Center is a platform to manage the QQ account details. It can be used to recover account passwords and add security steps, among other things.
QQ Launcher: Among the hundreds of launches on the Google Play Store, QQ Launcher Pro offers a range of frequently used features such as screen and app management along with customisations.
U Video: Built to help users discover, create, and download status videos for WhatsApp, U Video also lets users upload photos and videos for others to use. The app is said to have over 50 Mn downloads globally.
VFly Status Video: VFly is a WhatsApp video status app, bringing features such as automatic cropping of ‘photobombers’ or others in a photo, filets, motivational quotes as videos and more. The app has more than 10 Mn downloads globally.
Mobile Legends: The only other game to be banned by India, this strategy game is a 5v5 multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game with each character having unique design and capabilities. Two opposing teams fight to reach and destroy the enemy’s base while defending their own base. The app has over 1 Bn downloads globally.
DU Privacy: Claiming to be a private storage app, DU Privacy can lock, hide, and encrypt selected apps for its users. It’s meant to keep sensitive photos and documents hidden from other users who may stumble onto the phone or are using it temporarily. DU Privacy has over 1 Mn downloads globally.
Correction Note | 16:37, July 26, 2020
The earlier version of the article erroneously mentioned that UC News has 50 Mn global users. It was later corrected to reflect the fact that UC News had 50 Mn users in India.