The clones are coming in fast: it has only been about ten days since TikTok was last accessible in India, but even in that short period of time, the short video space in the country has been in a frenzy. While the “Indian” alternatives have gained a sizeable user base ever since TikTok was banned, it remains to be seen if any of these apps will be able to match TikTok’s recommendation algorithm, or the network effects, which played a crucial role in TikTok’s success in the first place. There is also threat from the deep-pockets of Facebook, which expanded Instagram Reels to India just this week.
While the Indian alternatives might still have some way to go to match TikTok’s user interface, or recommendation algorithm, they have one thing in abundance which even Instagram Reels can’t match — the fact that they can all market themselves as “Indian” apps. As Indian short video apps have raked up their user base, all of them have made it a point to tom-tom their “Indianness” in the aftermath of border conflict against China. This strategy, however, seems to have merit, given that search trends on Google show that people have been searching for the country of origin of a number of these short video apps. We studied several popular Indian TikTok alternatives, starting from how they serve content down to how they position themselves on both app stores:
How Indian platforms stack up against each other
Broadly, Roposo seemed to have been the most popular app, going by search trends on Google, closely followed by Chingari. ShareChat-owned Moj also saw similar interest among users even though it was only launched on July 3, and is only available on Google’s Play Store. Here’s how the “Indian” alternatives to TikTok stack up, based on trends from Google search:
Roposo’s home screen is similar to TikTok to the extent that its main recommendation page is called — just as TikTok — For You. However, it also has tabs for other types of content, which it calls channels, which can be selected by scrolling from the bottom of the app’s home screen. The app can be used in a number of Indian languages including Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi and Odia. Also, it is mandatory to log in to the app to see content, and the only way to log in is by using a mobile number.
The InMobi-owned app was also the most popular Indian short video app in terms of downloads, as data collected by Sensor Tower and reported by Entrackr showed that Roposo recorded 6.7 million downloads between June 29 and July 5. At the time of publication, Roposo was the number one app on the Google Play Store in the “Top Free” category. Also, just like on TikTok, the Indian government has an account on Roposo with the handle @mygovindia.
From the get go, it is clear that the app wants to position itself as an “Indian” app, as the first loading screen of the app says: “Roposo, India ka apna video app [India’s own video app]”. A day after TikTok was banned in India, the app had made it a point to highlight its “Indian” credentials: “Our mission is to provide Indians with the largest talent platform that is truly Indian,” Mayank Bhangadia, co-founder of Roposo had said in an emailed statement to MediaNama. “We have built Roposo as a clean and ethical platform. The unique idea of channels in Roposo provides every talented Indian with an opportunity to grow rapidly.”
Curiously, there is a visible difference in how the app is positioned on the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. On the former, there is clear messaging of the app being from India — right from the name to the images used to showcase the app. However, that is not the case on the Apple App Store. Neither the images there have the Indian flag, nor does the name of the app mention India anywhere. Even the Android version of the app’s logo has the Indian flag in the background, but the iOS version doesn’t.
We tested the app on iOS, and it felt sluggish, unpolished, and with a dated UI. However, the developer of the app has teased new graphics for the app which it should get as an update sometime next week. The app has three options on the home screen called Videos, Games, and Feed. The former is the recommendation page, although unlike TikTok, a video isn’t automatically playing when the app is opened and users have to select a video manually to play it.
The distinction in positioning the app on the Play Store and App Store is yet again visible, as in the case of Roposo. The name of the app on the Play Store says that Chingari is an “original Indian short video app”, whereas it just says Chingari on the App Store. The app’s description on the Play Store, too, has an Indian flag, while saying that it is India’s new TV, by the people for the people. This sort of messaging is absent from the app’s description on the App Store.
The co-founder of the app, Sumit Ghosh, in a recent interview with CNBC also claimed that they will never seek funding from Chinese investors. “No Chinese money, no Chinese companies’ money…no Chinese direct or indirect money in Chingari ever. Not now, not ever,” he said.
While scrolling through the app, we could see that users had uploaded videos created by popular TikTok creators such as Riyaz Aly, and Abraz Khan, even though they don’t have a profile on the platform, yet. Just like Chingari, Mitron’s user interface, and the home screen in particular felt sluggish and dated. Unlike TikTok, Roposo, Chingari, and Moj, there’s no way to use other audio from another video to create a video.
Mitron had drawn controversy about its “Indianness” after a Quint report showed that the app was actually a rebranded version of a Pakistan-based short video app called TicTic. Results from Google Trends show that people have searched for the owner of the Mitron TV app, suggesting, that a number of people are basing their decision to download an app based on its nationality.
The ShareChat-owned app had 2.4 million downloads as of July 5, per Entrackr, which is impressive, given that the app was launched on July 3, and is only available on the Google Play Store. Interestingly, related search queries on Google Trends shows that people have searched about the origin of the Moj app, suggesting, yet again, that knowing the country of origin of an app has certain value to people.
Aside from the apparent similarity of the app’s name to TikTok, the recently launched MX Taka Tak, which is Times Internet’s second short video offering after Gaana’s HotShots, currently looks like an unpolished app. We couldn’t find a way to use audio directly from another person’s video, which is a salient feature of short video apps. Even the names of the creators don’t show up while their video is playing in the home screen. It has one line in its description on the Google Play Store (where its currently available), which reads: “MX Taka Tak is a short video community, made locally and specially by MX Media & Entertainment in India”. The screenshots of the app uploaded to the Play Store also include colours of the Indian flag.
Trell’s UI is sluggish, at least on iOS, and doesn’t seem to have the same snappiness as some of its existing rivals. It is also the only app in this list where users have to swipe to change content, instead of the more traditional scroll to change, which is common across most short video platforms. The app can be accessed in five languages — English, Hindi, Telugu, Tamil, and Malayalam. The app’s Android version has an Indian flag in its logo, which is missing on its iOS equivalent. In fact, on the Google Play Store, the app says that it is made in India, accompanied, obviously, by an Indian flag.
Can Facebook spoil the party?
A day after Instagram Reels was expanded to India, user interest peaked in the search term. Google Trends showed that on July 9, interest in the keyword Instagram Reels was considerably higher compared to other alternatives such as Roposo, Mitron TV, and Chingari, among others.
While the following day interest in the search term fell, it was still much higher compared to the other Indian short video apps on this list. We had earlier pointed out that out of all TikTok clones out there in India right now, Reels is the most likely alternative to replace it, because it already has popular TikTok creators creating content on it. Not to forget, Instagram won’t be short on resources to take on TikTok-esque apps.
Note: There are more Indian short video services than in this list but we chose to go with only those services which have a dedicated app. As a result, we haven’t included Gaana’s HotShots, or Zee5’s HiPi since these short video services are embedded within the core app. We referenced Google Trends to see any rise in interest for a particular keyword to gauge user interest in that particular topic. We have also relied on app download numbers collated by Sensor Tower and reported by Entrackr.