Amid rising anti-China mood, local app Mitron eats into TikTok's India market in eye-popping manner

(This story originally appeared in on May 28, 2020)CHENNAI: With over half a million downloads every day, a TikTok clone called 'Mitron' has climbed up the chart of top Indian alternatives for the Chinese short videos app within a month since its launch. Led by 31-year-old IIT-Roorkee alumnus Shivank Agarwal, with his team of less than 5 members based out of Bengaluru, the Android app Mitron - the word means friends, and is often used by Prime Minister Narendra Modi - was launched in April 2020.

Designed for people to showcase and share their innovative videos, Mitron saw a 4x jump in downloads to 5.4 million between April and May 25, according to data from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower. Listed by its parent company Shopkiller.in, it has bagged a rating of 4.7 out of 5 on the Google Play Store.

Speaking on the genesis of this self-funded app, a spokesperson for the team told TOI, "Indian consumers and content creators should be served by an Indian platform. We never aimed at competing with anyone when we launched our product. Our mantra was to provide users with an Indian alternative (to the Chinese app TikTok). Whether people would want to use it or not is not in our hands. But, we are pleased with the outcome."

The very name Mitron seems to have ensured some free publicity for the app. However, the spokesperson said, "Mitron means friends. The question would never have come up if we had named it 'Friends'. This is the prejudice against an Indian name, which we want to remove."

The news comes at a time when India user downloads for TikTok fell drastically by 48% from 35.7 million to 18.5 million between March and May. This is in contrast to the growth of downloads registered at 7% in February and 8% in March this year. Overall, the app's downloads shrunk from 119 million to 90.6 million in the same period, recording a 15% fall. In total, TikTok has gene rated more than 2.1 billion downloads to date during its lifetime, with 633 million downloads in India.

The Chinese short video application is owned by ByteDance, the world's most valued private technology company at $100 billion. Many people had been tweeting and trending anti-Chinese sentiment since the coronavirus pandemic originated in the neighbouring country and Indo-China border tensions also flared up early in May.