KOCHI: For many Gen Zers and Millennials in Kerala, the India-China conflict at the border is a distant reality. One that had little impact on their everyday lives until they woke up on Tuesday morning to the very real ramifications of the escalating diplomatic conflict with the Indian government banning 59 Chinese apps in the country including the all pervasive TikTok. Over the last couple of years, TikTok has captured the imagination of both urban and rural young India like no other content sharing platform. With more than 150 million users, TikTok emerged as the most downloaded mobile app in a country which has over 50 per cent of its population under the age of 25.
Closer home, the app spawned celebrities out of teens and 20-something youngsters with some like @Fukru123, Sooraj J K D and Anagha K of @Devilkunju amassing millions of followers. With an option to lip-sync and re-enact iconic scenes from movies, users let their talent ablaze. A few popular TikTokers like Varsha Bollamma who made her Mollywood debut in the 2018 film Kalyanam bagged lucrative movie offers after their videos caught the eye of filmmakers who also took to the app to scout for fresh faces.
Furthermore, TikTok gave content meat to creators on other social media platforms. The shenanigans of users on the Chinese video sharing app provided context for YouTubers and Twitterati to roast and comment on the antics of TikTokers, sometimes resulting in full blown online wars. Latest YouTube sensation from Kerala, @Arjyou saw his fortunes change over night when his reaction video to TikTok went viral garnering him a million followers in a matter of few days.
The snowballing mania around TikTok reached its peak with the Covid-19 outbreak and the ensuing lockdown. Being confined to ones homes meant that the otherwise busy film stars and actors could keep themselves and their fans entertained by becoming TikTok influencers. However, even as the latest government decision to sound a death knell to the app has come as a surprise to the TikTok community, the general consensus seems to be that of acceptance. Many have already turned to other platforms to keep their virtual avatars alive.
“I’ve not been using the app for a month. I was frustrated by the developments at the India-China border. We had a discussion at home on the same and even Hansika stopped using it. I will continue to showcase my talent through other platforms,” said Diya, daughter of actor Krishna Kumar. She and her sister Hansika had around two lakh followers on TikTok.
Budding TikToker Shibin T C of @Wild.mallu lost his 50,000 strong community overnight due to the ban but he is confident other players will replicate the model very soon. “TikTok has a global presence but I don’t think there will be any extensive social impact of the ban. Companies will come up with immediate replacements to cash in on the void left by TikTok. There are already similar Indian developed apps like Roposo and Mitron which will absorb most of the market playing on national appeal,” says the 26-year-old.
Sowbhagya Venkitesh, a popular social media influencer, posted a photo on Monday night confirming she deleted her TikTok profile. Sowbhagya, who had around 1.5 million followers on the app said the ban on the app will have little effect on her online presence. “TikTok was just one of the platforms I used. The app also had many limitations. It doesn’t give options or ideas to the user, it was a hit only because the creators churned interesting content. So if people believe in their talent, any platform can be used to gain fame,” said Sowbhagya.
While @Fukru123, arguably the most popular TikToker from Kerala, has already posted a funny video on his Instagram handle bidding farewell to the app, Anagha K uploaded a story saying she respects the decision of the Indian government. “My father is a pilot. So I understand the patriotic sentiment. I stopped using TikTok and other Chinese apps three months ago. I will interact with my followers on other platforms,” said Anagha.