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ByteDance to slash workforce in India amid TikTok ban

Saleha Riaz
·2 min read
India banned TikTok in June last year claiming several Chinese apps posed 'a threat to sovereignty and security.' Photo: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters
India banned TikTok in June last year claiming several Chinese apps posed 'a threat to sovereignty and security.' Photo: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

TikTok parent company ByteDance has said it will cut jobs in India, one of the app’s largest growth markets, after the country decided to retain its ban on the social media platform.

TikTok, Tencent Holdings' (TCEHY) WeChat, Alibaba's (BABA) UC Browser and about 50 other Chinese apps were banned in June last year following a deadly clash with Chinese troops on India’s eastern border. The clash had left 20 Indian soldiers dead and sparked furious reaction across India, leading to calls of banning all Chinese products.

India, however, did not explicitly link the ban to the border clash but the Ministry of Information said it was imposed over concerns that the apps “pose a threat to sovereignty and security” of the country.

At the time the Indian government said the decision to ban the apps was in order to protect the data and privacy of its citizens and put a stop to technology that was “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorised manner to servers outside India.”

This week the information ministry issued fresh notices to make the ban permanent, according to reports in the Indian media.

In an internal memo sent to staff in India, Bytedance said: “We initially hoped that this situation would be short-lived... we find that has not been the case.

“We simply cannot responsibly stay fully staffed while our apps remain un-operational... we don’t know when we will make a comeback in India,” the note said.

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“It is deeply regretful that after supporting our 2,000-plus employees in India for more than half a year, we have no choice but to scale back the size of our workforce,” it added.

When it first imposed the ban, the Indian government gave the banned apps an opportunity to explain their position on compliance with privacy and security requirements. But reportedly it is not satisfied with their responses.

India has been TikTok’s largest market with over 200 million users and rivals are popping up amid the ban. In September YouTube said it will test a beta version of its TikTok rival in India called YouTube Shorts.

Meanwhile Bloomberg reported that ByteDance’s revenue more than doubled to about $35bn (£25.5bn) in 2020, and operating profit went from under $4bn to $7bn, despite significant global competition and former US President Donald Trump’s attempt to ban TikTok in the US.

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