Video-sharing app TikTok was the most engaging mobile application in India in 2019, according to a report by data analytics firm App Annie. India accounted for 44%, or 323 million, of all TikTok downloads in 2019, up 27% from the previous year. Nikhil Gandhi, India head of TikTok, talks about what makes the app from China’s ByteDance tick in India. Edited excerpts:
What makes TikTok engaging to Indian users?
Increased content consumption on smartphones and the trend of people having a shorter attention span, driven by millennials and GenZ, has led to an explosion in the creation and sharing in the vertical short-format content. TikTok offers a unique opportunity for its users to be their authentic selves and present their fun side. In addition, it offers an unprecedented experience of content creation and consumption. TikTok’s personalized content recommendations result in users having a great experience while consuming content of their interest. The platform’s easy-to-use tools have democratized creativity for the creation of content for a global audience.
What is the strategy and focus for TikTok in India in 2020?
TikTok’s mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy. TikTok offers a free platform to create, share and connect to a wider audience. We have made TikTok intuitive and easy to use. This has given rise to a new generation of entertainers, content creators, and artists. In 2020, we will continue to ensure that our more than 200 million users get access to interesting, innovative, and fun content. Global and Indian users, creators, and celebrities continue to add to the content diversity of the platform.
Monetization of content is still relatively underdeveloped on TikTok. How do you plan to address this?
Short-form ads are driving disruption and are arguably the most common form of advertising we are involved with. Brands looking to tap into this audience have certainly benefited by being on a platform such as ours. TikTok allows brands to effectively connect with audiences across the length and breadth of the country, in an interesting and innovative format. Our wide user base gives digital advertisers an opportunity to connect with different sections of the society. This has made TikTok a preferred destination for brands to creatively engage with audiences. In the last few months, we have successfully partnered with various brands in the finance, e-commerce, internet, fast-moving consumer goods, banking, financial services, and insurance, and the education space. The brands we work with include PepsiCo, ITC, SBI, Marico, Moov, Puma, and Clean & Clear.
TikTok has come under fire for allegedly allowing pornographic content to propagate, especially among younger audiences. How do you address this?
We have several measures in place to protect users against misuse of the content they share on the platform, including giving users the choice to make their accounts private, blocking another user, reporting an account or content on the app, and disabling the ability to receive messages among others. We have also implemented a moderation technology powered by machine learning technology and a robust human team. The moderation team, based on expansive community guidelines, ensures the digital well-being of our users. Most importantly, TikTok enables users to help in content moderation as well.
TikTok’s users can report content that they believe violates any of the community guidelines or content that they find offensive directly from the app itself.