Instagram has been filtering comments since 2016. Photo: iStock
Instagram has partnered with prominent music labels to provide a vast collection of songs for its Reels users. Photo: iStock

After the Indian government banned 59 China-based apps as ties between the two countries worsened, the void left behind by video-sharing platform TikTok is drawing a lot of competitors, homegrown and foreign, to tap its 200 million erstwhile users in the country. The latest to enter the fray is Instagram, which has begun testing its app Reels in India.

Reels allows users to create short-form videos lasting up to 15 seconds, add creative filters and music and share it beyond their regular followers. The Facebook-owned service has been testing Reels in select markets such as Germany, France and Brazil.

Facebook India chief Ajit Mohan said videos are already popular on Instagram. “Videos make up over a third of all posts in India,” he added, pointing out that 45% of all videos posted on Instagram are below 15 seconds in duration.

Instagram has partnered with prominent music labels to provide a vast collection of songs for its Reels users. Those wanting to shoot a video on Reels can use audio from the Instagram Music library and it also offers options such as speed, effects and timer.

Reels videos will appear on Instagram’s Explore tab, enabling users to reach a broader audience than their own follower base. Users can also share Reels as “Stories,” though, in that case the video will not appear in the Explore tab and will disappear after 24 hours.

Instagram has already attracted tens of thousands of influencers in India, and now with its Reels launch it hopes to enable several content creators in India to gain followers worldwide. It has now given a quiet burial to Lasso, its other short-form video platform, which was launched in some markets but had a lackluster run.

After TikTok was banned a number of startups including Twitter-backed Sharechat, Chingari, InMobi Group’s Roposo, and Mitron have ramped up their efforts and have claimed to court tens of millions of users.

However, data collected by market analytics firm Kalagato shows that between June 29 (when TikTok was banned) and July 4, little has changed for Sharechat, Roposo, Chingari, and Mitron. Based on data collected from over 5 million smartphone users in India, it said these Indian apps had fewer takers than TikTok had before the ban.

Many former TikTok users were still assessing whether or not their favorite app will resume service, while others have shifted to platforms like YouTube and Instagram.