In a move that will likely come as a little surprise, Instagram has quietly rolled out a new test of its TikTok-like clone functionality ‘Reels’ to some users in India, following the ban of TikTok in the Indian market.
Reels, which Instagram has admitted is its ‘response’ to TikTok, enables Instagram users to create 15-second, looping video clips within the app, which can be set to music, and spliced together from various clips. Just like TikTok.
Reels are then able to be shared and remixed, while more recent additions will see Reels clips made available in dedicated spaces on both user-profiles and within the Explore tab. Instagram recently made Reels available to users in France and Germany after initially launching the option in Brazil last November. And now, Indian users will also get access. This makes a lot of sense.
With TikTok being banned in India due to rising tensions between the Indian and Chinese Governments that leaves an opportunity for both Instagram and YouTube to take TikTok’s place in the market, and cater to the rising popularity of short-form video in the region.
TikTok, as of February his year, had around 81 million users in India, the app’s biggest market outside of China, while more recent reports have suggested the app could have been up to around 200 million active Indian users at the time of it being banned
And more than this, many Indian influencers have become reliant on TikTok for income.
As explained by Wired:
“1.2 million Indian creators [have] turned to TikTok to express themselves, build a sprawling network of followers and padding their bank accounts. […] On average, a category A influencer (with at least ten million followers) could charge up to Rs 3-4 Lakh ($4,000 to $5,300).”
These influential users, with large networks of fans, are now left to either wait out the Indian TikTok ban – which could go on for months, if it’s ever lifted – or switch to Instagram or YouTube in order to re-connect with their audiences, and continue their work.
Given this, the launch of Reels in India makes logical sense and could help Facebook-owned Instagram force out the rising rival, dealing a critical blow to the Chinese-owned app. And worth noting, YouTube has also been testing its own TikTok-like tool, reportedly called ‘Shorts’, which many also expect to see launched in the Indian market shortly.
And it might be just the beginning – while India has taken decisive action, several other nations are also weighing a potential TikTok ban, with both the US and Australia set to subject the app to a full national security review, in order to ascertain its risks with respect to data gathering and usage. Losing any more regions would be major, both practically and perceptually, and while further regional bans don’t seem likely, at least at this stage, the Indian decision is being upheld by some privacy advocates as a precedent for taking stronger action against the Chinese-owned app.
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Already, losing access to the Indian market will add significant pressure to TikTok to enhance its revenue-generating processes in other markets – and as a result, you can expect to see TikTok launch a range of expanded ad tools and offerings very quickly, as it seeks to counter its Indian market losses.
Will this be the beginning of the end for the app?
It’s very early days, of course, and TikTok still has significant and growing, user bases in other regions. But losing such a significant section of its overall audience is a major blow, and unless TikTok can get itself restored in India, it may well prove to be a lingering, and eventually fatal wound, as competitor apps swirl in and seek to capitalize on such opportunities.
In the immediate term, that could provide more opportunities for reaching TikTok users with ads, if you’re comfortable with the ongoing data concerns. But in the longer term, it may be best not to build too much reliance on the app.