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India’s app ban paves the way for Dragon’s digital downfall

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For years the Chinese Dragon viciously guarded its economic turf and never allowed foreign players to enter and grow within it. Not only China sealed all economic opportunities for itself in the age of globalisation, but also nurtured key players like Bytedance Ltd, Tencent Holdings, etc, to grow in an ecosystem where online giants like Facebook, Google or Microsoft had no say. But with the Indian government banning 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok, UC Browser and WeChat, following the violent face-off between the Chinese and Indian troops at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh on 15-16 June, in which 20 Indian bravehearts died, tech watchers say China has made a big mistake and the Xi Jinping government should brace for a big digital downfall.

The importance of these digital companies could be gauged from the fact that despite Covid-19 pandemic which crippled the economy worldwide, ByteDance Ltd’s (TikTok’s parent company) valuation crossed more than $100 billion. Similarly, Tencent holdings (one of the most valuable companies in the world), which develops apps like WeChat, QQ Messenger, League of Legends, etc, earned a revenue of over $500 billion this year. Sources say the ban is likely to make a major impact on three fronts — data security, economic blockade of China and opportunities to Indian companies.

With this ban, Bytedance Ltd likely to suffer the most. TikTok h a s b e e n removed from world’s third-largest digital market with 611 million downloads (30% of TikTok’s total users). It is estimated that this will make the Chinese giant lose revenue of half a million per day. This ban has also given the US an edge over the Dragon in global tech market. With this, American companies like Facebook, Google, etc, are expected to see a boost. The sting will definitely hurt the Chinese for long as they are expected to lose around $110 billion.

Meanwhile, the government has also tightened its grip around Chinese companies like Huawei and sources say these companies might lose India’s 5G bid as well. The government is also thinking about a possible ban on Chinese companies, especially telecom operators and mobile companies soon. Apart from this, rules are also being formulated to reduce import of Chinese products.

 India is the 3rd largest digital economy, and without access to this market, Chinese companies’ valuation will go down significantly. Even if they come back in the future, their customer acquisition cost (CAC) is going to skyrocket, many will simply surrender and fold back to China. Ankit Prasad, CEO and founder, Bobble AI, said, “This ban can have a domino effect as well, encouraging other democratic markets to make similar bans. Though the impact is going to be both ways. The pro-active investments from China that have been happening over the last couple of years are going to reduce drastically. Indian startups would be left with fewer choices and sometimes onerous terms to raise funds from, and many ideas might not see the light of the day.”

 Sources also say that the ban will also give opportunities to Indian players to build a network of home-grown world-class mobile apps for 1.3 billion Indians. Boxengage. com, which was launched as a Indian alternative to Tiktok during the lockdown, saw a massive 10X surge in activeuser mark within 24 hours. Short video content app Woovly too gained 2,000 followers within a short span. Similarly, VideoMeet app for video conferencing too picked up and is now seen as a possible alternative to video conferencing apps.

Industry watchers believe this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for desi companies to cement their place at a time when nearly 300 million Indians are on Facebook, another 400 million on WhatsApp, and over 120 million on Chinese app TikTok — not to forget the millions who are hooked to Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Ironically, despite such a big market, there has not been a single Indian social media platform with a global standing.

Amid all this, the regional language social media platform ShareChat is showing the way. ShareChat has a user base of over 60 million monthly active users spread across the country and available in 15 languages including Hindi, Tamil and Bengali. The Bengaluru-based regional language social platform has become so popular that even Twitter came onboard when the four-year-old company raised $100 million in its Series D round of funding last year.

Public is a video-only social platform and has already registered 50 million users, with more than one million videos being created every month. “It is now on our entrepreneur on how well we can utilise this as an opportunity and build solid businesses. It may not fly that well if we don’t get the right and timely support system for scale, most important would be capital. Indian companies with less capital access also may sustain and flourish now and provide better opportunities to create great products not just the copycats of those Chinese app substitutes,” said Sumeet Verma, CEO & co-founder, KopyKitab.

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Punjab CM declares Malerkotla state’s 23rd district, announces development projects

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Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday declared Malerkotla as the 23rd district of the state, while also announcing a slew of projects for the development of the historic city.

The Chief Minister made these announcements during the state-level celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, held virtually in view of the pandemic. On the occasion, the Chief Minister underscored India’s secular character, which he said was manifested in the defeat of communal forces in the recent Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.

Recalling the rich history of Malerkotla, the CM said its conversion into a district, which had been a long-standing demand of the local people, would ease their hardships and enable them to resolve administrative problems more seamlessly.

Initially, said the Chief Minister, the sub-divisions of Malerkotla and Ahmedgarh, as well as the sub-tehsil of Amargarh, would be included in the newly created district. The process of bringing villages under the jurisdiction of Malerkotla district would begin later, after the conclusion of the census operations, he added. The Chief Minister directed the Deputy Commissioner Sangrur to find a suitable building to immediately start the functioning of the District Administration office. The Deputy Commissioner for the newly carved out district would be appointed soon, he said.

Announcing various development projects for Malerkotla, Capt Amarinder Singh also announced the establishment of a government college for girls and a government medical college. The medical college, in the name of Nawab Sher Mohammed Khan, would be set up soon at a cost of Rs. 500 crore, and the state has allotted 25 acres of land on Raikot Road and the first instalment of Rs. 50 crore has already been sanctioned, he added. A new bus stand will also be constructed at a cost of Rs. 10 crore, he said, adding that Malerkotla will also get a ‘Mahila Thana’ which would be exclusively managed by women.

To ensure holistic urban development, the Chief Minister also announced a sum of Rs. 6 crore for the Urban Environment Improvement Program (UEIP).

Further, to promote the cultural heritage of Malerkotla, the Chief Minister said the Punjab Government has acquired the Mubarak Manzil Palace and that he has written to His Highness the Aga Khan Foundation UK to undertake its conservation and restoration. He also recounted his memories with the then Nawab of Malerkotla and spoke about the city’s significance in Sikh history.

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CHHATTISGARH TO PAY FOR EDUCATION OF CHILDREN WHO LOST PARENTS TO COVID

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Raipur : The Chhattisgarh government has decided to pay for the education of children who have lost their parents/guardians to Covid and children from families where the earning member has died of Covid.

CMO Chhattisgarh tweeted, “Chhattisgarh government will pay for the education of children who lost their parents due to #COVID19, scholarship also to be provided under state’s Mahtari Dular Scheme. State govt will also take care of the education of children whose earning member of the family has died of Covid”.

Children orphaned due to Covid will also be provided with scholarships under the state’s Mahtari Dular Scheme.

The CMO also tweeted that such children will be given preference for admission in Swami Atmanand English Medium Schools. No fee will be charged.

As per the Health and Family Welfare Ministry of Chhattisgarh, 9,121 Covid cases were recorded on Friday out of 67,738 tests conducted. With this, the total number of cases in the state are reached 8,92,331. The state also recorded 195 deaths on Friday, wherein 92 were from Covid, while 103 patients died of co-morbidities. The Ministry also reported 12,274 total recoveries, including those discharged from home quarantine, bringing the total number recoveries to 7,61,592.

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NOT FORCING USERS TO ACCEPT PRIVACY POLICY UPDATE, WHATSAPP TELLS DELHI HC

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Messaging app WhatsApp told the Delhi High Court on Friday that it is not forcing any user to accept the 2021 update in its privacy policy as it is not mandatory. It said users will have a choice to accept the new update or choose not to, and are free to delete their WhatsApp accounts any time.

Replying to a petition challenging the privacy policy of the app, WhatsApp submitted that users were not previously given the option to opt out of its privacy policies if they wanted to use the service.

The social messaging app also said that it is not under any legal obligation to provide such opt-outs to its users and added that the law permits companies to not provide their services to users who do not consent to their terms.

The company also said that such practices are commonly practiced by online platforms across the industry whenever they update their terms. The company also said that online platforms are often less transparent by simply implying consent through continued use of their service after a certain date, rather than prominently and clearly giving users control and choice, as WhatsApp did.

The company also submitted that such interference in the privacy update policy would “cripple” the internet-based applications and websites industry.

The messaging app also said that the petitioners’ allegations regarding the alleged disparity with European users are meritless. The company maintained that the 2021 update, which applies to users in India, also applies to most of WhatsApp’s users around the world, including in the US. On the different policy for WhatsApp’s users in the “European Region”, the social messaging app submitted that it is due to different rules and obligations in the European Regio

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SPECIAL PAROLE FOR CONVICTS SERVING MORE THAN 7 YEARS IMPRISONMENT IN HARYANA

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Given the Covid crisis, Haryana has announced to give parole to convicted persons who were sentenced for more than 7 years imprisonment. It was decided at a meeting of the High Powered Committee held under the Chairmanship of Justice Rajan Gupta, Judge, Punjab and Haryana High Court and Executive Chairman, Haryana State Legal Services Authority.

As informed by the Prisons Department, Haryana, a total of 21,804 (108%) prisoners are presently lodged in 19 jails of Haryana against the authorized capacity of 20,041 (100%). Since the first meeting of the High Powered Committee, held on 24 March 2020, 2,580 convicts sentenced for more than 7 years imprisonment were released on special parole. Similarly, 2,094 (656+1438) convicts/undertrials sentenced up to 7 years or facing trial for offences which stipulate maximum imprisonment up to 7 years were released on special parole/interim bail under the orders of HPC.

Subsequently, with a decrease in Covid cases, the High Powered Committee had directed the return of the convicts released on parole in cases where they were undergoing imprisonment for more than 7 years in 9 phases. Till date 2,170 convicts have surrendered in jails under 8 phases and the 9th phase consisting of 280 convicts started from 14 May, 2021.

In pursuance of directions issued by Hon’ble Supreme Court of India on 7 May 2021 in Suo Motu Writ Petition (Civil) No.1 / 2020 – In RE: Contagion of Covid-19 in Prisons, and considering the emergent situation in and around due to sudden spike in Covid, the Committee has decided to release all convicts sentenced to imprisonment for more than 7 years who were released earlier on special parole under the categories prescribed by the Committee on special parole till 31 August 2021. Special parole granted to convicts who were to surrender in the 9th phase has also been extended till 3 August 2021.

However, convicts who have failed to surrender on the date fixed or are absconding or against whom new cases were registered while on special parole are not entitled to special parole. No special parole shall be applicable to those who are not covered by the categories approved by the High Powered Committee in its previous meetings.

Competent authorities have been directed to consider the concern of inmates who may not wish for release in view of their social background and the fear of becoming Covid victims and may allow them to stay in jail after taking a written declaration from them.

The Committee has also extended the parole/interim bail of 2017 convicts/undertrials who are sentenced up to 7 years/facing trial for offences which stipulate maximum imprisonment up to 7 years till 31 August 2021. State and jail authorities have been asked to consider the cases of all such convicts/undertrials for parole/interim bail as well as any other convict/undertrial covered by the categories prescribed by the High Powered Committee.

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MAHARASHTRA GOVT TAKES U-TURN ON PR AGENCY ALLOTMENT FOR AJIT PAWAR

Urvashi Khona

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After facing backlash for the Maharashtra government’s allotment of Rs 6 crore to a private PR agency for handling Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s social media accounts, Pawar has cancelled the notification of the appointment. He clarified that he does not need any outside PR firm and the government department will do its work.

An order issued on Wednesday by RN Musale, under-secretary at the General Administration Department for the year 2021-22, stated that an external agency was to be appointed, with a budget of Rs 5.98 crore, for handling the social media accounts of NCP leader Ajit Pawar. As per the order, this was because the Directorate General of Information and Public Relations (DGIPR) lacks the professional and technical competence to deal with social media. The PR agency which was to be appointed in consultation with the Deputy Chief Minister, Secretariat and DGIPR was also tasked to see how messages and decisions by Ajit Pawar reaches the common man.

However after severe backlash, including from the Opposition, that crores of rupees were being spent merely for advertisements amid the Covid crisis, the Deputy CM – who also holds the finance and planning portfolio – cancelled the decision.

“There is no need to appoint an external agency to handle the social media of the Deputy Chief Minister’s Office. The order in this regard should be cancelled immediately,” read his press statement with an add-on clarification that communication with citizens and the media would be maintained only through the existing public relations system.

Meanwhile, BJP MLA Ram Kadam attacked Pawar, raising the question that if this was the amount to be spent for one minister, what it would be for the others. “People have died in the pandemic due to the negligence of the Maharashtra government. On one hand, the government is saying that they don’t have enough money to purchase vaccines and on the other hand, to pat their backs on social media a team is hired for the Deputy Chief Minister at a budget of Rs 6 crore. If this budget is for one minister, what is the budget for all the ministers?” he asked.

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PLEA TO CANCEL CBSE, ICSE CLASS XII EXAMS FILED IN SUPREME COURT

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New Delhi : A plea has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking directions to the Centre, Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination (CISCE) to cancel the CBSE and ICSE Class XII examinations.

CBSE, through its letter dated 14 April, had cancelled the examination for class X and postponed the examination for Class XII. CISCE, through its circulars dated 16 and 19 April, had cancelled the examination for Class X and postponed the examination for Class XII for an unspecified period. The plea asked the court to set aside these notifications issued only in respect of clauses dealing with the postponement of the Class XII examination.

The petition filed by advocate Mamta Sharma asked the court to devise an objective methodology to declare the result of Class XII within a specific time frame. The plea stated that for the innocent students of Class XII, “step-motherly, arbitrary, inhuman directions” have been issued to postpone their final examination for an unspecified duration.

“In view of the unprecedented health emergency and rising numbers of the Covid-19 cases in the country, the conduct of examination, either offline or online or blended in upcoming weeks is not possible and delay in the examination will cause irreparable loss to the students as time is the essence in taking admission in higher education courses in foreign universities,” the plea said.

It added that delay in declaration of results will ultimately hamper one semester of the aspiring students as admission cannot be confirmed until the Class XII result is declared.

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