Monday, June 15, 2020

ByteDance to discontinue two apps in India - here's what we know

ByteDance, owners of the highly popular TikTok video sharing platform, will discontinue two of their lesser known apps in India. In spite of being their largest market outside of China, the company's decision appears to be based on the lack of interest for their Vigo Video and Vigo Lite apps. 

In a message to its Vigo app users  titled "A farewell letter", ByteDance says it was saddened to shut down the apps but did not proffer a reason for doing so. "We want to thank you for the time you've spent with Vigo. It's you who made us who we are today. We regret to inform you that we'll discontinue our service after 31st October, 2020," Bytedance said. 

Simultaneously, the company nudged the Vigo users to shift to TikTok and said it would facilitate the move till it shuts down formally. Both Vigo Video and Vigo Lite allowed sharing short-form sketches and lip-syncing Bollywood songs. 

While TikTok boasts of more than 200 million users in India, Vigo Video had just about 4 million active users per month while Vigo Lite fared worse with just about 1.5 million users, according to market research information published by TechCrunch. It said that while a million new users joined Vigo Video over the past 12 months, as many left Vigo Lite during the same period. 

Though India was its biggest market in the region, these two apps were also introduced in neighbouring Bangladesh and Sri Lanka as well. At this juncture, it is not clear whether ByteDance is bidding adieu to just one country in the region or the entire region. 

ByteDance has three products currently in India of which TikTok is the best-seller followed by Vigo, Lark and Helo, which functions as a platform for individuals to share their thoughts and ideas as a content creator. The company had also stopped subscriptions from India for  Lark, which was a productivity suite similar to Google Drive. 

ByteDance had committed to expand its business in India with an investment of $1 billion in April last year though there has hardly been any move since. However, there have been several recruitment posts on Indian job sites suggesting that the company was looking to hire executives in the sales and marketing functions. 

Despite facing backlash over the contents on TikTok and facing social media pressure over the anti-China sentiment, ByteDance was working towards setting up a second corporate entity in India. News reports suggested that the second entity would provide IT and IT-enabled services to the ByteDance platforms globally from India. 

Meanwhile, wire agency Reuters had also reported poaching Disney's Kevin Mayer and appointing him CEO of the company was part of a broader strategy from ByteDance to shift its centre of power out of China. The report said the company had made a series of moves in recent months to transfer global decision-making and research capabilities out of the home country. 

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