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How Bytedance is trying to consolidate TikTok’s user base in India

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Beijing Bytedance is consolidating its position in India by shutting down short video app Vigo—one of the company’s alternatives to its own hugely popular TikTok app.

India is TikTok’s largest market. According to data analytics firm App Annie, the viral app had 81 million monthly active users (MAU) in India last year, who spent a total of 5.5 billion hours inside the app. By comparison, TikTok had 30 million MAU in the U.S. Vigo, which Bytedance launched under the Hypstar name in 2017, has 4 million MAU in India.

On Monday, Bytedance announced it would discontinue Vigo, sending a notification to users thanking them for the “time you’ve spent with Vigo.” The app will cease to operate in India on October 31 and, according to Techcrunch, will be discontinued in all other markets too. Bytedance will help users transfer their Vigo content to TikTok accounts before then.

Vigo—and its low-data usage sister app, Vigo Lite—differs from TikTok because it uses cash to incentivize participation. Vigo issues reward credits, called “flames,” to users who upload popular videos; the more popular a video becomes, the more credits the content creator receives. Each “flame” is worth $0.015 and users can use PayPal to cash out when they accrue over $1.

TikTok doesn’t pay its users for creating content. Instead, influencers on the app have to barter with brands directly to receive money for advertising products. However, TikTok is currently exploring ways to monetize its position in India; consolidating its user base there could give the app more sway with advertisers.

However, some Vigo users might be tempted to switch to local rival Chingari instead. Launched last year, Chingari recently passed 100,000 downloads. Like Vigo, the app pays users for creating viral content. The app’s co-founder Biswatma Nayak says Chingari “isn’t a clone of some foreign app” but has been “designed in keeping with needs of Indian users.”

“It is time for all of us to switch to Indian-made apps like Chingari,” Nayak told India TV News, adding that the app answers Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent call for consumers to be “Vocal for Local”—a rebranding of Modi’s earlier “Make in India” campaign that’s designed to spur local business and consumption.

India’s promotion of domestic apps comes as TikTok once again faces backlash in the country for failing to properly police content. The Chinese-owned app was temporarily banned last year after a court received complaints that users were sharing pornography.

Last month, a video appearing to show an acid attack on a woman caused users to flood TikTok’s Google Play page with negative reviews. The acid attack video turned out to be a fake, and Google removed millions of associated negative reviews it determined to be coming from fake accounts. Nevertheless, Tiktok’s user rating fell from 4.5 to 1.2 stars overnight.

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Lyron Foster is a Hawaii based African American Musician, Author, Actor, Blogger, Filmmaker, Philanthropist and Multinational Serial Tech Entrepreneur.

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