In an interesting new development in the increasingly-complicated and geopolitical/economic situation between India and China, ByteDance is reportedly now looking to sell-off its Indian TikTok assets to local rival and unicorn Glance. The report comes from Bloomberg and concerns recently-initiated high-level and still secret talks. We’ll try our best to simplify thigs as much as possible here.
After India made its ban of 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok within the country permanent this January, ByteDance – the Chinese parent company for the short video sharing platform effectively closed-down its operations in India and pulled-out of the country. Ever since, ByteDance has been looking for a way to at least salvage some of its local assets. Apparently the opportunity has presented itself. The Japanese SoftBank Group Corp – the multinational conglomerate holding that tends to pop-up fairly frequently when discussing major tech companies is apparently a backer in both TikTok’s Chinese parent ByteDance and Glance’s parent InMobi Pte. Hence, the interest to make local TikTok assets profitable again is definitely there, even if on the surface, this looks like an assimilation from competitor Glance.
According to sources familiar with the matter, the talks go way beyond simple business relations between companies. Apparently, in light of ongoing India/China tensions, the Indian government will have to give its seal of approval on any such deal. Sources claim that the latter authorities will insist that TikTok user data and technologies stay within India’s borders. China’s fairly new rules on the export of technology are expected to complicate negotiations even further. With all said and done, it is likely that both governments will have to approve any eventual deal that SoftBank mediates between ByteDance and InMobi Pte.
TikTok’s misfortunes in India started last summer when the Indian government issued preliminary bans, citing threats to its sovereignty and security. At that point TikTok had a massive 200 million user base in India and hundreds of local employees. Since then, most of those ex-employees have gravitated towards homegrown TikTok rivals, which seems to be popping-up rapidly all over the place in hopes of filling the market void. Glance or Glance Digital Experience as its full name goes, the most-likely partner in the aforementioned assets transferal deal is definitely one of the bigger names. Its parent InMobi was founded by Harvard Business School alumnus Naveen Tewari and is India’s first unicorn – a term that denotes a privately held startup, valued at over $1 billion. That unicorn status was only recently acquired in December, following the beginning of the TikTok ban saga, as well as funding from Google and billionaire Peter Thiel’s Mithril Capital going towards InMobi. The point here being that major economic interest and players are involved left and right.