The popular video-sharing app TikTok on a smartphone. Photo: AFP

TikTok app promoter ByteDance is trimming its staff in India after the Narendra Modi government decided to maintain its ban on TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps, multiple media outlets report.

The Chinese internet giant employs more than 2,000 people in India and has informed them through an internal memo about plans to reduce its staff strength. Media reports say over two-thirds of employees may get pink slips and only critical jobs will be retained.

In June last year, India banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok, WeChat and UC Browser, citing national security concerns in the wake of a border clash between the two countries in May. Another 118 apps were banned in September and 43 more in November. The Indian government recently sent notices to Chinese firms, informing them that the ban on 59 apps, announced on June 29, would continue.

ByteDance told its employees that its prospects in India were uncertain and that the Indian government has not provided clarity regarding when TikTok could be revived in the country.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government has criticized New Delhi’s app ban, calling it a violation of the WTO’s non-discriminatory principles and the fair competition principles of a market economy. “Since last year, the Indian side has repeatedly used national security as an excuse to prohibit some mobile apps with Chinese background,” the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi said in a statement.

Prior to the ban, India was the biggest international market for TikTok, with over 200 million monthly active users and its appeal cut across regional, language and class barriers. The ban also left TikTok’s more than 200,000 “influencers” in the lurch. Although there are many options available, nothing comes close to TikTok in terms of audience reach and monetary benefits.

Apps like Chingari, Roposo, Mitron and Instagram Reels are seeing a spike in downloads and are trying to fill the vacuum left behind by TikTok. Meanwhile, Google-owned YouTube claims its short-form video feature Shorts is clocking 3.5 billion views per day during its early test run in India. It unveiled an early beta of Shorts in India in September.

Market observers say the ban on Chinese apps is also a strategic move by the Indian government to boost and build a strong app ecosystem in the country.