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Chinese Apps Banned in India: Several of the 59 Chinese apps banned by the government have a wide reach in India. Who owns the most popular ones, who runs their India operations, and what is their reach in the country?

On Monday, the Centre announced an interim ban on 59 apps with Chinese links, citing “emergent threats” to the country’s sovereignty and national security. These included popular mobile apps such as TikTok, CamScanner and UCBrowser, which together command several hundred million users in the country. Some of the larger ones like TikTok, UCBrowser and ShareIt also have a significant presence in the country in terms of revenue and number of employees on their payrolls.

A look at some of the more widely used apps among the 59 banned:

TikTok & Helo

The two social media apps, which are operated by an entity called Bytedance (India) Technology Pvt Ltd, together command more than 170 million active users across the country. Notably, India is the largest market for TikTok with more than 611 million downloads, representing nearly a third of the video-platform’s base, followed by China (where it operates under a different brand) and the US.

However, India is not among the top revenue-generating geographies for the app. In 2018-19, the first full year of the company’s operations in the country, Bytedance India posted revenues of Rs 43.6 crore, and the company targeted revenues of Rs 100 crore for the following year. In the US, the app has been downloaded 165 million times, with revenues of $86.5 million (over Rs 650 crore) in 2019. China, with nearly 197 million users, contributed $331 million (around Rs 2,500 crore) during the year, according to Sensor Tower.

The company also has administrative presence across eight cities in the country and employs over 1,000 people. Bytedance India, however, is not owned by a Chinese entity. According to corporate structure available on Bytedance’s website, the parent entity — Bytedance Ltd — is registered in the Cayman Islands. This parent company has five subsidiaries, one of which is TikTok Ltd — also registered in Cayman Islands. Under TikTok Ltd, a Singapore-based entity TikTok Pte Ltd is registered, under which entities operating from India and Southeast Asia are registered.

The IT Ministry is specifically expected to seek details from the companies running these apps on data sharing by these companies under a Chinese law, which requires companies of Chinese origin to share data with that country’s intelligence agencies, irrespective of wherever in the world they are operating. Last year, Bytedance had announced an investment of $1 billion in the Indian market over a period of three years.

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