New Delhi: India’s new IT rules and US President Joe Biden‘s decision to scrap predecessor Donald Trump’s order seeking to ban TikTok in the United States have given ByteDance Inc. renewed “hope and confidence” for the India market, almost a year after its viral short video app was banned here.
People familiar with matters at the company told ET that ByteDance wrote to the IT ministry earlier this month highlighting that it was compliant with the new intermediary guidelines despite not being operational. They said the Chinese company is hoping for a reply.
ET sought the comment of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on the matter, but did not get any response as of publishing this story.
The company still employs around 1,000 people in India—who are mostly working for other markets such as Southeast Asia—besides others who are working on a comeback strategy for India, the people said.
“The team is following up and is hoping for a reply from the ministry. Even before the rules were enforced, ByteDance was compliant with requirements such as appointing a 24/7 Indian grievance officer based here,” said a person familiar with matters at the company. “We understand there was a lot of geopolitics at play last year. But businesses should run aside of geopolitics and that happened largely,” he added.
“If you look at the trade between the two countries (India and China), it has actually grown. Maybe the app economy got hit more for whatever reasons but there were other sectors that are still prospering including some sensitive ones as well,” this person said. “From its side, the company has clarified on everything to the government. It has been transparent on the potential concerns.”
According to Reuters, the US Commerce Department said it was rescinding a list of prohibited transactions with TikTok and WeChat that were issued in September after the Trump administration sought to block new downloads of these apps. US President Biden withdrew these orders this month and ordered a commerce department review of security concerns posed by these and other apps.
“I think that’s the right approach. It has to be a rules-based approach that everyone knows about. The rules should be applicable for all other apps. They should know what are the parameters against which they will be measured if they have to be operational in a country,” the person cited above said. “As the honourable IT minister has also said many times here that companies can operate in India provided they comply with the rules. The company feels it is very much compliant. And even if there is anything else which the government needs, it is ready to provide any additional information and allay all concerns.”
Another person familiar with the matters said TikTok continued to operate and be compliant in other markets such as Europe which have stricter regulations. “We are still intending to make a comeback here,” the person added.
People privy to matters at the company think given its investors such as General Atlantic, Sequoia Capital, KKR & Co. and SoftBank Group Corp, the global management and having data storage facilities in locations such as Singapore and the US, it should be considered a global company.
“If the concern was some investment from China here and there, there are lots of so-called Indian companies that have Chinese investors. ByteDance is ready to give all the information if it is of concern. Other domestic and international apps have mushroomed but maybe they haven’t really translated into monetisation opportunities for TikTok creators who are still in touch with the company,” one of the people said.