Homegrown entrepreneurs and venture capitalists have given a thumbs-up to the government’s decision to ban 59 Chinese apps, saying it presents a significant opportunity for local companies, particularly those operating in the e-commerce, social media and gaming sectors.“The belief that the global apps would be used by Indian users has, in the past, dried up resources for building these products locally… This ban gives a unique opportunity to Indian technology entrepreneurs to build and own some of the most highly used internet products,” said Aprameya Radhakrishna, CEO of Vokal, a peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing platform.
Vokal recently launched Koo, a microblogging platform in Indian languages that allows users to express themselves on the internet.
Over the last two years, Chinese companies such as social media app TikTok, short video platform Likee, and fashion and apparel-focused e-commerce companies, like Club Factory and SheIn, had made deep inroads into India’s fast-growing digital content-guzzling populace, often outpacing local counterparts in the process.
“India has never been in a better place to be recognised as one of the most attractive markets to invest in, given its size, growth in digitisation and democratic structures…The biggest evidence of this are the investments in Jio Platforms over the last few weeks,” said Anup Jain, managing partner of Orios Venture Partners.
Gaming apps such as Clash of Kings and Mobile Legends have also been included in the list of banned Chinese apps, potentially opening up opportunities for local players to step in and grab a larger slice of the country’s still-nascent, but fast-growing mobile gaming space, which is currently estimated at 350-400 million, according to industry experts, and anticipated to cross 500 million over the next 12-18 months.
“This is the time when people have to really pull up their socks and create best-in-class products… This will help us in distribution, while discovery of products can get much better now,” said Paavan Nanda, co-founder of gaming startup WinZO.
For other Indian ventures, the latest development has become the best opportunity to ramp up their user base, go deeper into tier-2 and tier-3 towns and cities, monetise their offerings and establish themselves as leaders in a market dominated by mobile users hungry for content and well-discounted products.
“This is going to change the trajectory and create a whole new revolution for home-grown apps,” Pulkit Agrawal, CEO of video-blogging venture Trell, told ET.
According to Agrawal, Trell has already started seeing the benefits of the interim order.
“Users have become more aware and informed about the Chinese apps and possible national security and privacy risks of using them; now they are migrating to the Indian counterparts wherever possible,” he said.
TikTok claims an estimated 200 million users in India.
The likes of SheIn and Club Factory have recorded daily shipments ranging between 15,000-55,000 in June.
Hours after the announcement, Khatabook co-founder Ravish Naresh said on Twitter that Monday is “going to be possibly one of the most exciting nights in the Indian startup ecosystem. Hope Indian VCs have enough firepower ready to enable entrepreneurs to quickly fill all the big white spaces made open today.”
The government’s interim order, which cites national security concerns, also comes a little over two months after it tweaked its foreign direct investment rules to ensure that all investments originating from countries with which India shares a land border, which includes China, comes after prior approval.
This has already impacted deal flows from the world’s second-largest economy, which has been the largest investor in the Indian startup ecosystem for the last two years, with some Chinese investors even withdrawing term sheets that were on the table.
“Geopolitics is phasal in nature and gaps in capital created by this will be filled by both domestic capital which is now more mature on alternative asset classes and, unaffected overseas capital opportunistically,” Jain of Orios Venture Partners said.
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