TikTok’s ByteDance denies India relaunch but sells stake in short video app Josh’s parent company, VerSe Innovation

Last week, according to a report by The Economic Times, ByteDance – the parent company of short video app TikTok – has reportedly been in talks with Indian partners who can help the company relaunch in the Indian market.

ByteDance has reportedly been in conversation with the Hiranandani Group, which operates data centres company, Yotta Infrastructure Solutions. However, a senior government official quoted in The Economic Times said, “There have been no formal talks with us yet. But, we have been informed of the plans. As and when they come to us for approvals, we will examine their request.”

Contrarily, a TikTok representative in an emailed interview to the South China Morning Post has stated, “While we continue to be hopeful about reconnecting with our community in India who used TikTok as a creative platform for their stories, performances, education, and livelihoods, we have no plans to resume operations at this time.”

The opposing reports also come at a time when ByteDance has fully exited VerSe Innovations, the parent company of short video app Josh and hyperlocal news aggregator Dailyhunt. The exit has taken place at a 56% discount.

Bytedance first invested in VerSe Innovation in 2016 and has sold its stake, according to the Economic Times, to existing investors, Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. ByteDance sold its shares in VerSe Innovation for approximately $102 million.

Earlier this year, VerSe Innovation, raised $805 million in a Series J funding round, bringing the company’s valuation at $5 billion. The short video app was launched a mere four days after the TikTok ban in 2020 in order to capture the Chinese app’s 200 million users.

In February this year, the Indian government’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology issued a fresh order to ban an additional 54 Chinese apps. Following the 2020 ban on Chinese apps, post the border dispute between the two countries, the fresh ban brings the total to 273 blocked apps that have originated in China or are connected to China.

Since its ban, India has witnessed a colossal rise in the popularity of the short video format, with several local players stepping in to fill TikTok’s lacunae. So much so that RedSeer Consulting reported in 2021 that home-grown short video apps have exceeded the TikTok user base of 137 million daily active users (DAUs) with increased MAUs to 230-250 million, almost 32% more than TikTok.

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