TikTok cuts jobs in India after prolonged ban

Tik Tok logo. Photo: Dado Ruvic/Reuters. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

GUANGZHOU, Jan 27, 2021, CNBC. ByteDance is reducing the size of its TikTok team in India — months after the popular short video app from China was banned by the Indian government. India is in one of TikTok’s most important markets, CNBC reported.

In June, India’s Ministry of Information Technology blocked 59 Chinese apps it claimed were “engaged in activities which is prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, security of state and public order.”

TikTok was among them. Since then, the apps have remained blocked, leading TikTok parent ByteDance to announce job cuts on Wednesday.

“We have steadfastly worked to comply with the Indian order from June, even as we disagreed with it. Given the lack of feedback from the government about how to resolve this issue in the subsequent seven months, it is with deep sadness that we have decided to reduce our workforce in India,” TikTok said in a statement.

Interim head of TikTok Vanessa Pappas said the firm has “worked tirelessly to avoid having to separate anyone from the company,” according to an internal memo sent to employees in India and obtained by CNBC-TV18.

“However, we simply cannot responsibly stay fully staffed while our apps remain un-operational.”

“While we don’t know when we will make a comeback in India, we are confident in our resilience, and desire to do so in times to come,” Pappas added.

TikTok will “only be retaining a small number of critical roles in India,” according to a separate internal memo sent to global employees by Pappas and obtained by CNBC.

Pappas said “prospects in other countries remain extremely strong — these issues were unique to political challenges in India.”

In September, India banned another 118 Chinese apps. All the apps remain blocked and the the Times of India reported on Tuesday that several, possibly including TikTok, will be permanently banned.

The app bans were seen as a response by the India to flaring tensions with China over their disputed Himalayan mountain border in the region of Ladakh, which resulted in the deaths of at least 20 Indian soldiers.

Ji Rong, the spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in India, alleged the Indian government’s moves to permanently ban the apps violate the World Trade Organization’s “non-discriminatory principles and fair competition principles of market economy.”

“We urge the Indian side to immediately correct its discriminatory measures and avoid causing further damage to bilateral cooperation,” the spokesperson added.

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