Is TikTok Coming Back to India? Reliance Is Reportedly Brokering a Plan

TikTok spying
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TikTok spying
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Photo Credit: Kon Karampelas

Though India banned TikTok and 58 other Chinese apps in late June, citing privacy and national security threats, India’s largest company, JioSaavn owner Reliance Industries, is reportedly in preliminary talks with ByteDance to invest in the app.

Within the discussions, TikTok’s value in India alone was settled at $3 billion, per the same sources. Prior to the late-June ban, TikTok boasted at least 120 million monthly active users (MAUs), as well as about 200 million total downloads, in the state.

Presumably, the potential agreement would center on Reliance’s brokering a deal with the Indian government to operate the app throughout the country. Similarly, as part of President Trump’s executive order banning TikTok, the platform’s parent company has 45 days to finalize a deal with an American purchaser. Microsoft remains a front runner to become TikTok’s U.S. owner, but earlier this week, Twitter reportedly threw its hat into the ring.

As an interesting aside, some outlets are claiming that the scope of Microsoft’s possible TikTok purchase has increased and, if finalized, would also cover an abundance of non-American countries – or even the whole of global operations. Other reports have steadfastly denied the prospect, however, and Microsoft hasn’t addressed the rumor specifically.

Nevertheless, the point’s implications on a potential Reliance Industries-ByteDance arrangement concerning TikTok may be worth bearing in mind. Japanese lawmakers are considering banning TikTok, and as the Asian country with the most TikTok downloads, India appears uniquely suited to coordinate continental operations. (This is assuming, of course, that TikTok is ultimately divided on a regional or multi-nation basis.)

In April, we were first to cover Facebook’s $5.7 billion investment in Jio Platforms, Reliance Industries’ tech and telecommunications division (including JioSaavn). Under the agreement, Facebook obtained a 9.99 percent stake in the brand, which was valued at about $66 billion. The following month, California-based tech-investment firm Silver Lake acquired a little over two percent of Jio Platforms with a nearly $750 million investment. And most recently, Google entered the fray with $4.7 billion in backing, for 7.7 percent ownership.

Altogether, Reliance Industries has sold just under a third of Jio Platforms to date, raising north of $20 billion in the process.