bytedance: TikTok owner bets on Resso & Lark for a Byte of


Chinese internet giant ByteDance is relying on its music streaming app Resso and ‘all-in-one’ productivity app Lark to forge ahead in the Indian market, three years after its flagship short-video app TikTok and others like Helo and CapCut were banned by the government.

Resso, which also operates in Brazil and Indonesia, counts India as its largest market. According to AppMagic, it has been downloaded over 125 million times in the country.

“ByteDance and other Chinese companies are still very keen on working in the Indian market, despite some of their top apps being removed from app stores and banned,” David Curry, data editor at Business of Apps, told ET.

This renewed foray comes even as the Beijing-headquartered firm faces increased scrutiny and even a potential ban in other large markets such as the US and in Europe.

India is the world’s largest internet market after China with close to 800 million users and provides a huge opportunity for apps looking to bulk up operations. Resso and Lark are on the lower end of importance for ByteDance, contributing less than 5% to the company’s overall revenues in 2022, according to Curry.

“However, they are important to ByteDance’s future as a technology company which is trying to reduce its dependency on TikTok and Douyin in China for revenue,” he added.

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Industry watchers estimate that Lark, which is primarily a productivity tool, registers most of its downloads in China. It has over 10 lakh downloads on Play Store. Lark includes chat, scheduling, docs, video conferencing, auto-translation and more in a single platform.


Global strategy

It claims to make team communication effortless without wasting time toggling between multiple programs and documents and offers a collaboration suite with prices starting at $12 per seat.

However, there is enough indication that ByteDance’s (global) strategy increasingly mirrors its approach in the US, where it “is trying to make itself look as “unimportant and safe as possible”, Curry said.

Resso growth model

Resso offers subscriptions starting at Rs 99 per month in India. Initially it was pegged at Rs 119, which is also what a Spotify premium subscription costs in India.

While India may contribute the highest number of users to Resso, the average revenue per user (ARPU) is lower than in Brazil, and converting Indian users to paid customers has proved difficult for other music streaming services.

Resso notified users on the app and website that it was going to upgrade to a premium-only service from May 11, 2023.

At the time, ByteDance’s global head of music business development, Ole Obermann, said Resso’s move to a premium-only service will allow the development of a better user experience for music fans, while increasing opportunities for rights holders and artists.

“We are committed to building the world’s leading social music streaming platform and ensuring artists and music creators can rightly benefit from its growing success,” Obermann was quoted as saying.

Ram Mishra, founder and MD of regional and independent music streaming app Damroo, said that music streaming generated Rs 2,200 crore in 2022 and of this, 87% was from digital space. He said the segment is expected to grow at a CAGR of 15% and is projected to touch Rs 3,300 crore by 2025.

“The high penetration of smartphones and internet in tier II and tier III markets is driving growth and the boom in the vernacular music space makes the Indian music streaming space lucrative for a variety of players,” he explained.

On average, Mishra said there are 450 million daily music streams in India and most of the traffic comes in from the top 10 metros, but this is slowly shifting more towards the hinterland. “Indians spend 25.7 hours listening to music per week which indicates a clear opportunity to provide an alternate option to video platforms in the vernacular markets,” he said.

Growing calls for bans

India banned TikTok and nearly 300 other Chinese apps in phases, starting from June 2020, over national security concerns. TikTok had more than 200 million users in India at the time and considered India its biggest overseas market. Since then, calls to ban TikTok have also surfaced elsewhere too.

India is one of the key markets for social media apps due to the sheer size of the user base. TikTok’s ban led to the growth of several homegrown rivals such as ShareChat, MX Takatak, Josh, etc.

The biggest beneficiary of the TikTok ban in India was Meta, which piloted its Instagram Reels in July 2020 and then launched it globally after massive success in India. Reels’ success in India was aided by the lack of competition from the Chinese app.

ByteDance made several attempts to return to India, even exploring partnerships with local Indian companies to assuage the government’s concerns on data sharing with China. All attempts, however, were unsuccessful.

ByteDance eventually laid off its entire India office in February this year.

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