In India, TikTok Will Reach More than Six Times as Many Users as Snapchat

In our first forecast for TikTok usage in India—the short-form video app's largest overseas market—we estimate that its monthly user base grew 328.8% year over year to 79.0 million in 2019. We expect that figure to reach 124.9 million this year, up 58.1%.

That puts TikTok's India user base well ahead of Instagram's (79.1 million); it's also more than six times the size of Snapchat's user base in the country. Our forecast was finalized before the government's late June ban of the app, but we don't expect that to change our estimates.

We are assuming that TikTok won't be absent from India for long. In a blog post addressing the situation, TikTok said it believes it complies with India's rules on data privacy and security and is working on addressing concerns. Representatives from several China-owned apps that have been banned (including WeChat) were expected to start meeting with India officials this month.

While the move is significant, the last time India took action against TikTok, those restrictions lasted just one week. We think TikTok's moves to distance itself from its Chinese ownership will help appease India's concerns. However, if the ban is permanent, we could see structural changes in the market. "There could be more room for homegrown copycat apps to spring up and take share, and Instagram and Snapchat might have more room to grow as well," said Cindy Liu, eMarketer senior forecasting analyst at Insider Intelligence.

Three factors are driving TikTok's current popularity in India:

  • A huge base of smartphone users: We estimate that India will have 406.7 million monthly smartphone users this year, and many of them have access to very cheap data packages from major telecom Reliance Jio. This has provided TikTok with a very large base of addressable users. 
  • Localization: India's early TikTok users came from Tier 2 and 3 cities, but that is changing as more users from India's largest cities flock to the app. TikTok has been able to reach these consumers by offering content that is tuned in to the cultural nuances of each market.
  • Influencers: Some TikTok creators have become well-known influencers in India, just as they have in the US and elsewhere, attracting large numbers of young people to the platform. Although the ban has caused some of them to shift to other social platforms, their initial presence on TikTok helped the app grow.

A note about our forecast methodology: Our forecast is for monthly users throughout the year, and we factor out duplicate and spam accounts, as well as business users of the app. TikTok recently stated that it has more than 200 million users in India, but that figure represents total users who have downloaded the app, per a TikTok rep. That will logically be a larger number than the number of those who use the app on a monthly basis throughout the year.