No matter where you go, you will find at least one person scrolling down short-form videos (SFV) as though his or her life depended on it. Videos ranging from 15 seconds to 2 minutes have become all the rage in India.
According to a recent report by Redseer, the Indian SFV market could grow to USD 8 to 12 billion by 2030. But Indian apps aren’t getting the share they were expected to circa 2020, when TikTok with its active user base of over 100 million was banned.
Many players, both domestic and international, moved in to fill that void. Indian players like Moj, Josh, Trell, Roposo, Chingari and Mitron seem to be losing users, while Youtube Shorts and Instagram Reels are making the most of SFV consumption.
According to Apptopia data published by Inc42, Moj fell from 9.24 million daily active users (DAUs) in Jan 2021 to 3.14 mn a year later and 2.16 mn in January 2023. The number includes MxTakaTak that it acquired in February 2022. From 5.77 mn at its peak after the TikTok ban in January 2021, Josh had 1.11 mn DAUs in January 2023. ShareChat had 5.33 mn DAUs in January 2023, down from 8.27 mn two years ago.
This contrasts sharply with micro-blogging app Koo that grew tenfold in two years to 2.24 mn in January 2023.
We asked a few industry experts what to make of the falling revenues / numbers of some Indian players. If Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts the real gainers. Are there TikTok alternatives that then seized the day, who will remain in play?
Weak business propositions
“Reels and Shorts are definitely gaining market share as the other Indian short video apps are failing miserably. These apps had got into the fray post the Byte Dance ban in India and found instant success. Some of these apps got an 11-fold jump in their user base within days. Though they couldn’t sustain it and found it difficult to retain consumers as their business proposition was weak. It got increasingly difficult for them to continue burning cash for marketing and user retention. Some of these apps are now contemplating paid features to break even. This again will deter the audience to stay on these platforms which neither have distinctive features or high profile creators.”
“Behemoths like Meta and Google with clear monetisation strategies and marketing are gaining and will continue to grow and serve a generation which has a short attention span but are very clear about where they would like to spend their time,” notes, Sudish Balan, Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer, Tonic Worldwide.
The long and short of it…
Vivek Kumar Anand, Director – Business and Innovation, DViO Digital, says, “India is a massive market with around 700 to 750 million internet users, making it the second-largest and fastest-growing internet user base globally. Mobile internet costs have significantly reduced since Jio’s launch, and India now ranks third globally for mobile internet costs. As a result, people increasingly consume entertainment content on their smartphones, leading to a surge in demand and supply for short-format videos, creators, and platforms.”
He adds, “The short video content format trend was popularised by TikTok, which YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels further capitalised on. Indian short video apps, focusing on Indianness and regional content, have further expanded the ecosystem’s growth and experienced remarkable growth, outpacing established platforms. Thanks to its regional connect and local creator networks. However, the short format content has some limitations. Its emphasis on popularity and virality encourages a culture of superficiality where people are more concerned with gaining views and likes than producing meaningful content. It can distract from more critical issues or discussions that need attention. Hence, platforms like YouTube that offer long and short formats with more substantial and meaningful content will benefit from the popularity and affinity towards the overall video format.”
Seamless, integrated ecosystems work
Shradha Agarwal, Co-Founder & CEO at Grapes, believes that over the last few years the short-form videospace in India is witnessing an exponential growth with no signs of fizzling out anytime soon.
“With the ban on TikTok in 2020, several new Indian players like Moj, Chingari and Josh, moved in to capitalise on the situation and successfully provided users with a similar experience. Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts have definitely emerged as the gainers in this scenario. These platforms weren’t the first movers in the segment, but they offer a seamless integration with their existing social media platforms, thereby making it easier for users to create, share and consume short-form videos,” she says.
“Moreover, the large tech players like Meta and YouTube, are also constantly updating their offerings and policies to build a strong creator community. This increases the influx of quality content for the audience. All these factors comprehensively attract brands and advertisers to the platform, who are looking to adapt and capitalise on this trend, thus creating a robust 360-degree ecosystem,” asserts Agarwal.
Preferred platforms for creators
Abhishek Razdan, Co-Founder and CEO, AVTR Meta Labs, reflects, “Instagram Reels and Youtube Shorts are unquestionably the top gainers. Meta and Youtube were already preferred platforms for creators and they were able to migrate their communities to these platforms after TikTok was banned In India. We also expect Snapchat to garner a larger market share in days to come.”
“As far as the direct TikTok alternatives are concerned, they were able to take advantage of the gap left in the short-form video space and have amassed a sizable following. As per the available January 2023 data, Moj and MX TakaTak have 150 million plus monthly active users (MAUs) and 100 million plus MAUs respectively, and are the top players, primarily, in the Tier 2 and the Tier 3 market. However, the decline in their numbers, if any, can be attributed to creators focusing on Instagram First/Youtube-first content (thanks to Meta’s and Youtube’s creator programmes and monetisation possibilities) and replicating the same on these short-video platforms,” he explains.
Will Indian short video players be able to reinvent themselves and rise again? That’s another story.
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