Apps like Josh, Moj, MX Takatak and Roposo filling in TikTok gap

30 April 2021 4 min. read

The Indian government’s decision to ban Chinese apps – including TikTok – was finalised in January this year. According to RedSeer, Indian alternatives such as Josh, Moj, MX Takatak and Roposo have thrived in the resultant vacuum.

Skirmishes on the India-China border last year drove the Indian government to launch a ‘digital strike’ – threatening to ban nearly 60 Chinese apps from operating in India. Social majors TikTok and WeChat are among the black-listed companies, which are officially off limits in India as of January. 

RedSeer Consulting researchers ran a deep dive into one particular segment – shortform social media – to see how it was faring without the sizeable TikTok proposition. As it happens, the segment is thriving, as local players thrive amid an increasingly tech savvy population – spurred on by the absence of a globally dominant competitor.

India’s shortform industry has recovered from the TikTok ban

The market has recovered, and at speed. Shortform user numbers plummeted after the ban was announced in June 2020, but are now back to 97% of the original base. “This shows how platforms were able to design the product, execute their plans and market it aggressively in a very short period of time. This is a strong indicator of how the Indian digital ecosystem has matured in the last few years,” noted RedSeer India associate partner Ujjwal Chaudhry.

The only blip is the time spent on shortform platforms, which still lingers at just over 50% of the June figures. For Chaudhry, this “indicates that Indian platforms are still maturing and there is a strong market opportunity.” The good news is that local players are gaining ground with customers – evidenced by high loyalty; a strong tendency to refer friends; and a reluctance to go back to Chinese apps if they stage a return.

The fact is that Indian brands have taken clever marketing positions – targeting the vernacular ‘Bharat’ segment that makes up a staggering 90% of India’s population. TikTok and international platforms such as Instagram and YouTube cater to India’s metropolitan audience, which craves content on fashion and self-development but occupies only 5% of the demographic. 

Indian shortform players have marketed to local audiences

All other segments in India prefer content in Hindi or vernacular languages, and enjoy recreational shortform feeds such as music, comedy, food and dance. Indian-origin platforms have realised this, and tailored their offering accordingly. 

And the strategy has been successful. Researchers confirm a direct correlation between a more localised content offering and higher customer satisfaction. A better technology stack also helps Josh, Moj, MX Takatak and Reposo are all evidence of this link. 

Josh, for instance, has a versatile Hindi language content base, which has put it in favour in the Hindi belt across northern India – home to the country’s most populous states. Moj caters well to vernacular audiences, while MX Takatak has managed to capture the metro demographic. Reposo lags here, on the back of a reasonable uptake in Tier 1 cities – one level short of metro. 

More localised and digitalised platforms perform better

Monetisation will likely follow a vast user base. Per the report, more than $2 billion is channeled annually into social media advertising across India, and shortform is among the more popular avenues. Indian platforms could feed off this to build a mature, competitive offering to rival any global entrants. 

Indeed, a Bain & Company report from December forecasted tremendous growth for India’s social commerce sector – where social media platforms house end-to-end advertising and purchasing capabilities. The market could touch $20 billion by 2025, and $70 billion by 2030 – creating a sizeable pie for Indian platforms.