“Inshorts” is an amazing app for getting a daily dose of news on your phone. The USP of this app is that it presents news stories crisply with word limit never exceeding sixty. So rather than reading a newspaper or scrolling through the diversified websites of news channels, I often find myself comfortable roaming in the lanes of Inshorts.
But Hold On !!!
This is not the app which I am going to talk about. Today it just happened to be that while scrolling through my Inshorts feed I came across a news story which talked about recently released data by Google Play Store regarding the most downloaded apps in India in 2019.
The story seemed very much unexpected yet believable to me that in the year 2019 TikTok has dethroned Facebook as most downloaded app in India.
While for some this news was enough to cringe as for them this was nothing but an exponential growth in the number of classless people devouring on cheap data, for me this was a transition similar to that of Jeff Bezzos overtaking Bill Gates as world’s richest person or Kylie Jenner dethroning Mark Zuckerberg as youngest self-made billionaire.
We are free to have our reservations about the legitimacy of Bezzos’ business ethics or what kind of ‘Self-made’ Jenners and Kardashians were but we cannot deny the reality of their existence.
If we take some examples from Indian context, then we will find that number of people disliking Chetan Bhagat in english literature and Kumar Vishvas in Hindi arena is huge but the very fact that these people found a way to market and capitalize on ‘Likes’ out of these disLIKES is what lies at the crux of Tiktok’s popularity.
It is still very much fresh in my memory when in year 2016 internet and social media was going gaga over Bollywood and other celebrities lip syncing the dialogues of Bajirao Mastani and others ranging from Gabbar to Vijay Dinanath Chauhan on dubsmash, a chinese company launched an app called musically with some more features and an improved user interface.
I never cared for this because by this time we were bored of this trend and people using musically’s updated version TikTok cringed me.
For me this was a matter of gone days until last year when I overstayed my winter vacations and got more time to interact with my brother. I was giving an elderly pep talk to him that he should start watching web shows available on digital platforms like youtube. In due time our discourse moved towards how these people generate revenue on youtube and while I was explaining the economy of Youtube’s play buttons and how my travel blogger friend got silver play button he slyly mentioned to me that even one of his friends has also got a silver play button from youtube.
This news was enough to arouse my curiosity and the very next day I decided to meet him.
He was a normal 16 year old boy and was so normal that I nearly missed that he was a regular feature in our evening cricket matches.
However unlike my friend who boasts of having visited 12 countries in 3 continents this boy’s only shot to glory was that he regularly made videos for youtube and later on started to upload them on youtube as well. He had also got an offer from a reputed music company to feature in one of their music videos which later on got converted into a singing offer as in leisure time he was trained as a singer by his father who sings in Jagarans.
I had encountered such spicy stories of singing prodigies’ and rags to riches in reality shows only and enjoyed when marinated by Miss Kakkar’s tears. This giant leap by a teenage boy from 2nd tier village in India speaks volumes about the equality of opportunity and levelled platform that this app has created in India.
There are several ways of ruling out the credentials of this boy. Some may say that his influence is localized. But then we are led to a conjecture number of people likely to be influenced by this boy is far greater than the number of votes that were polled in favour of candidate at 2nd place in recently concluded Lok Sabha elections from our constituency.
The second argument can be that this boy’s influence is limited to a particular section/class of our society and that class matters least in substantial decisions related to society. But we can not rule out the reality that this class is a consumer class in its own where it can take personal decisions and thus it is very likely that several companies may find this boy a suitable medium to reach their potential customers. And in both circumstances this boy is bound to encounter opportunities, which were earlier not available to people of his category(class).
While I am writing this, I have encountered two news ; First news of IIM Indore collaborating with TikTok to spread digital literacy among Indians & second being an announcement by ByteDance the company owning Tiktok, that this year they may think of switching to a paid subscription based revenue model in India.
This would suffice for me to conclude that, at the onset of new decade when technology and its related features getting more interactive and virtual humans in the form of NEONs are knocking at our door it won’t be an exaggeration to state that despite all its virtues and vices TikTok is the new Facebook of this time in all literal meanings.
Although this may sound poetic, TikTok is a perfect child to the Chinese Economy which always focuses on quantity rather than quality and Indian Democracy; a game of numbers.
Having said all that the main point to be underlined here is that you have two ways either you like it or dislike it but there is no way that you can afford to ignore TikTok in this decade.
Writer: Pranav Raj, New Delhi