Snack Video, which has already amassed significant number of Indian users, is also replicating features of the banned popular short-video app Tik-Tok, owned by ByteDance. Similarly, the banned Hago app, which allowed people to create chat rooms with strangers and also play games with them, has been replaced by an app called Ola Party. While the new app does not offer the gaming option, it has imported the sign-in as well as the existing profile, friends and chat rooms from Hago, a review by ET showed.
In response to queries from ET on the continued availability of banned apps and rebranding of some apps, a senior government official said, “this should not be the case. If this is happening, we will take up the matter.” The ministry of electronics and IT (MeitY) has issued advisories that none of the banned Chinese apps should be available in any form.
It has also banned close to 47 clones that have come up in the weeks following its initial action in June. Kuaishou didn’t respond to ET’s queries. Other app companies could not be immediately reached. Experts are of the view that India is too lucrative a market to lose for Chinese companies and they would make every effort to return. “If the app ban doesn’t subside in a few months, banned apps in new avatars will crop up.
The Indian Internet market is obviously hard to ignore for the Chinese or other companies,” said Santosh Pai, Partner, Link Legal India Law Services. “The new trend will be of the Chinese developers teaming up with Indian developers to mitigate political risk and launching the apps, as one does not need enormous amounts of capital to launch an app—anywhere between $2 million and $ 5 million is enough,” said Pai. App companies could also take the route of registering offices in Southeast Asian countries to escape the geopolitical tensions, he added.
In some cases, Indian users are reporting that banned apps like the chatting app Mico, although removed from app stores, continue to function on phones where it is pre-installed. “If we try to access other banned apps, which are already installed on the phone, they show a blank screen, but that’s not the case for Mico,” said one user. ET could not independently verify this.