TikTok had taken India by storm. Indians flocked to this mini-video app, and the trend of lip-syncing to popular film dialogues or posting transformation videos had become immensely popular amongst the netizens. However, due to border tensions with China, the Indian government had to take the drastic measure of banning TikTok on June 29, 2020, alongside many other Chinese apps, to ensure the privacy of Indian information. With the ban, the app dwindled in popularity and was forgotten by many. However, some Indians still acquire their daily dose of entertainment from TikTok. SimilarWeb researched on TikTok in India and had starkly surprising results. The data they released stated that TikTok had higher active Indian users compared to Instagram in December 2020. Irrespective of the ban, it continued to be one of India’s most used applications between August and October.
So, the question is, how is TikTok still accessible in India despite getting banned?
When an app gets banned, new people cannot install the app on their devices. They cannot update it either. However, a ban does not cause the app and its data to get released from a device where it already exists. In this way, multiple users in India were still able to access the platform since they already had TikTok downloaded on their phones. With technicalities and applications such as VPN, users can easily use foreign servers to access certain apps and websites on their phones without the government detecting it. Newer users have also been downloading TikTok from various websites that provide the .apk file. The exciting part is, that users do not have to possess an advanced understanding of technology to use VPN or download .apk apps because it is a straightforward and relatively easy process. This information was confirmed by Pulkit Sharma, the CEO, and co-founder of Khabri, a digital audio platform.
Some might wonder why people need to use a site that is banned. Gautam Madhavan, the Founder of an influencer marketing company, had the perfect explanation for this. He said, a global platform like TikTok is accessible outside India where Indian content is well accepted. In lot many cases, the followers of TikTok rapidly increased after the ban. Even the followers are coming in from international markets. Indians formulated multiple homegrown apps that could replace TikTok; however, numerous users had already developed an established audience and fan base on the app. So realistically, they did not wish to start from scratch all over again. However, the “Reels” feature of Instagram, provided them with a similar platform, which worked out for the influencers since they already had a fan base that extended to Instagram.