Tough road for TikTok clones

Building the next TikTok will require top-notch capability, backed by millions of dollars.

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BENGALURU: The ban on Chinese short-video apps like TikTok and Likee has led to an increase in downloads of Indian 'clone' apps such as Trell, Bolo Indya, Mitron, Chingari, and Roposo, but the battle to replace them with India-made ones is far from over, investors said. Gaining downloads is just the first step, they said.

Retaining users, getting them to create a digital footprint and making them addicted to the app is crucial in this 'winner takes all' market, they added.

According to industry estimates, around 12-15% retention is considered good for a short video app. So, a few million downloads just does not suffice in the cut-throat industry, they said.


"The kind of money needed for scaling won't come into many apps. They don't have the capability to pool money or build scalable apps. I can bet most apps seeing downloads today will lose 90% of the people within a month," said Anand Lunia, founding partner at India Quotient, which has invested in ShareChat and Roposo.

Building the next TikTok will require top-notch engineering capability and a recommendation and personalisation engine backed by millions of dollars for marketing, user, and creator acquisition.

"You need $50-$100 million to even play in this space. Anything less than that is subscale. There is a low barrier to entry but hard to sustain. There are going to be a thousand short video apps, these core capabilities have to be scaled to win," said Dev Khare, Partner at Lightspeed India. Lightspeed has invested in ShareChat and RheoTV.
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Some Indian apps are facing bugs, server issues, as well as security concerns.

Many have crashed, unable to take the load of new signups. "Reaching the level of TikTok will take time and a good amount of money will need to be pumped in. Good user experience is necessary for stickiness. Millennials are short on patience, so you cannot have technical glitches. Social media is all about addiction," said Amit Kumar, Partner at Ah! Ventures, which has invested in Bolo Indya.

The challenge of user retention can be seen in TikTok's data.

According to the latest data, TikTok, backed by the world's most valued startup ByteDance, was downloaded 660 million times in India since launch.
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