NEW DELHI: ByteDance owned short video app TikTok, which has been banned since June end following border hostilities between India and China is working on a comeback strategy for India, people familiar with the matter said.
TikTok has been hunting for partner firms for functions such as legal, policy and advocacy and communications in India and has shortlisted a few companies, the people cited above said.
“Following the US election results, TikTok, which was staring at a probable ban under the Trump administration, is more hopeful of a resolution coming through on the Walmart Oracle deal and is working on possible strategies to get the ban revoked in India,” a source said.
“Majority of the employees have stuck around in the company and the staff has been retained,” added another person involved in the matters.
In a response to ET’s queries, a TikTok spokesperson did not deny or confirm the comeback strategy plans but said the company has demonstrated ‘unequivocal commitment’ to comply with the local laws, including data privacy and security requirements, and is therefore optimistic about a positive outcome. “Our clarifications have been submitted to the government and we will continue to allay any further concerns they may have. Together with our employees, we remain dedicated to our users and creators who have found not only recognition but also new avenues of livelihood through our platform,” the spokesperson added.
ET reported in its edition dated September 26, that despite being shut for usual operations and facing a ban on its TikTok and Helo apps, ByteDance doled out cash bonuses going up in lakhs to its Indian employees, who were hopeful of being absorbed under a global deal.
ByteDance has over 2000 employees in India, and the move was in line with a global announcement through an internal memo in September, wherein ByteDance stated it will be issuing a cash bonus to all eligible employees to help them overcome the ‘challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the changing macro environment.’
A source told ET there have been no layoffs at ByteDance India and no salary cuts so far. People familiar with the matter said the company also conducted an annual performance review cycle for staff keeping in line with global cycles.
On October 31, a US judge in Pennsylvania blocked a US Commerce Department order set to take effect on November 12 that would have effectively barred TikTok from operating in the United States. The app is currently functional in the country.
Since its announcement in September, the Walmart Oracle TikTok deal has been mired in confusion and controversy. On September 19, Walmart and Oracle had announced that ByteDance has received tentative approval for an agreement with the US government to resolve outstanding issues, which will now include Oracle and Walmart together investing to acquire 20% of the newly formed TikTok Global business.
The companies had stated as a part of the deal, TikTok is creating a new company called TikTok Global that will be responsible for providing all TikTok services to users in the United States and most of the users in the rest of the world. They had also said the administration has conditionally approved a landmark deal where Oracle becomes TikTok’s secure cloud provider. ByteDance had said it was pleased that the proposal by TikTok, Oracle and Walmart will resolve the security concerns of the US administration and settle questions around TikTok’s future in the US.
But ByteDance also said later that it filed applications to the Beijing Bureau of Commerce, and was awaiting a decision to determine if the company was subject to China’s newly amended technology export list, even as it proposed to sell a stake in the TikTok video-sharing platform to Oracle and Walmart.
China’s amended regulations include new restrictions on the sale of artificial intelligence-related technologies, including algorithm based services like those offered by TikTok to foreign firms.
ByteDance had also said in a blog post that it will own 80% of TikTok Global which led US president Donald Trump to say the proposed deal for TikTok which involves the setting up of a new US-based company, TikTok Global, will not be approved if ByteDance retains control.