A visible gap
The move to ban 59 China-based apps has been met with a generally positive response by the Indian public. While there are several concerns regarding the sudden nature of the move, patriotism, it seems, has and will carry the day. Individually, many of us may even have vowed to stop using any Chinese products and, in this case, Chinese apps and replace them with Indian alternatives. A small show of support, a way to contribute to this struggle. But, it is worth asking at this juncture as to just how robust the Indian app industry is and whether it can, in fact, meet not just the patriotic needs of the Indian public but also practical ones as they look to replace established Chinese apps in the world's fastest-growing app download market. Tik Tok, which identifies India as its largest overseas market has been the first of the many apps to respond to the Government order by temporarily shutting down its services as it attempts to reach some kind of understanding with the Government, Meanwhile, three India made apps are attempting to claim Tik Tok's throne and have shown varying amounts of enthusiasm for the expectations and increased user base that will come their way after this ban. Sharechat, the largest India based social media platform with over 60 million monthly active users has been cautious in its outlook. They are basing this caution on the fact that Tik Tok users likely use apps such as Sharechat as well, meaning in the short term, there will be no drastic gains. Chingari, another Tik Tok alternative has been bolder in its assertions pointing towards a 400 per cent spike in subscriber count since the anti-China sentiments started surging in India, a trend that it sees as going even higher as the effects of the ban become established. A similar surge is expected for productivity apps as well, like ShareAll and Send Anywhere which are looking to replace SHAREit.
Most experts and commentators at this stage have asserted that this ban will have a minimal impact for India with Indian apps standing ready to provide alternatives to every app that has been banned. Indeed, experts have labelling India as the new ground for app development for a while now, touting reduced costs for development, access to a pool of experienced developers and the presence of a massive domestic market for these apps. Studies have shown that as compared to the US and UK where people access the internet using their phone 33 per cent of the time, Indian's use their phone for the same 80 per cent of the time. The biggest names in the business — Google, Facebook, Amazon have invested a significant amount of capital in increasing their outreach in the market. With all these advantages and gains, why have India app developers lagged so far behind as compared to their Chinese counterparts? One answer given by many commentators is originality and design of Indian apps which borrow heavily in features and design from Chinese apps. This, while naturally making Indian apps a hard sell on the global market, also make them a relatively marginal product in India as well with Indian apps comparing unfavourably to Chinese apps in terms of innovative features and updates. Others have pointed to the Indian app scene being simply immature as compared to the Chinese one which has had more time and resources invested its growth, a gap that can and will be closed in time. Regardless, the present period will likely be a 'sink or swim' period for India's app developers. It is unknown how long this ban will hold out but it will not likely be forever. There is a limited time to capitalise on this windfall gain. In the meanwhile, however, enterprising app developers have come out with innovative apps to help the average Indian feel more patriotic with apps that can tell you which of the other apps on your phone are Chinese in origin and a barcode scanner that gives you the same information about everyday products. Let us hope this spirit of innovation can provide more value than simple novelty and patriotism in the long run.