tech

Chinese apps ban brings back focus on Indian ecosystem, privacy

Should India also discuss privacy and data regulations as the focus shifts to the homegrown Indian internet companies? What will it take for the local alternatives to make it big? Read on

Indian companies are doing great at the moment, but can they make it big?
Indian companies are doing great at the moment, but can they make it big? (pixabay)

From Chingari, Mitron to ShareChat, several Indian internet companies are gaining huge traction after the government's ban on 59 China-linked applicatinos. 

For example, ShareChat. A vernacular-focused social networking platform had been around for quite a few years. The app recorded over 15 million downloads since the government ban on Chinese applications. It has also launched a TikTok alternative, Moj. Other homegrown old and new apps such as Chingari, Khabri, and Bolo Indya are also milking the trend. 

Even as these Indian companies are currently riding high on the anti-China sentiments, they will need to match up the quality (user experience) and privacy benchmarks that are on par with the global standards. The gain may be short-term and high in volumes, but an ecosystem will be important.

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Mishi Choudhary, a technology lawyer and online civil activist, believes this is indeed a big window of opportunity for the Indian companies. She, however, also cautioned that these firms will need to raise the bar.

“It is an opportunity for Indian apps, but they will also address the same issues. We cannot say, just because it is an Indian app, you should have something. You have seen that there were certain versions, short video platforms, you saw Mitron, Bolo Indya, none of them have had the uptake of a TikTok or Helo,” she said in an interview with Hindustan Times.

“So, the design, the utility, the ease of usage, and also what the values of these companies are, will determine whether they will be succeeding or not, but this definitely gives them a little more room, although they've always had the opportunity but right now as the other companies are figuring out their own obligations. There is a little more room here,” she added.

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The ban on the China-linked applications comes amid an ongoing border tension between India and China. One of the conversation topics, however, that has been missing at the moment is privacy. India is working on a data protection bill that could bring more transparency in the regulations as well as give more control to users. Europe has already leapfrogged in this area with GDPR. 

Chaudhary, however, believes India’s data protection bill is still work in progress and may not be very similar to GDPR.

“There are a lot of issues in the bill itself. It has implications far beyond India because the country wants and should create a comprehensive data governance framework that will anyway affect virtually any company attempting to do business in India. and India is an attractive market. It is a young market. It is also a very tech-savvy market. You also see how quickly every you hear about some app one day, and in a few months, it has just spread like wildfire. So, it is a very, very sophisticated market,” she explained. 

According to Chaudhary, India has an edge over countries such as China. But it will have to bring some sort of predictability for ease of operations.