Facing severe backlash from the government, trader organisations, and various independent bodies over time, Chinese digital commerce and social media companies are working hard to change the narrative.
From setting up their second headquarters in India to bank-rolling onshore data centres, Chinese firms are going above and beyond even US tech firms to show they are as Indian as other players in the country.
After facing flak from trader organisations over the last couple of years, many Chinese e-commerce companies have been working hard to make their online marketplace more inclusive. Therefore, instead of having just products from China, many of them such as Club Factory are working with a host of Indian sellers.
Club Factory, which has close to 50 million Indian users on its platform, is planning to add 10,000 sellers in India. It has an office in Gurugram and plans to open offices in Bengaluru and Mumbai.
Earlier this year, under the draft e-commerce policy, any foreign player that planned to sell in India would have had to set up local offices and have onshore representatives, failing which it would have been shutters-down.
Taking note of rising complaints against Chinese e-commerce players for sending shipments as ‘gifts’ to Indian customers and avoiding duties, the government had, in the draft, mandated all e-commerce sites and apps to have a registered business entity.
Following the footsteps of Facebook and Twitter, TikTok owner ByteDance is trying to make deep inroads in the government space by making efforts to bring the Centre on board, to promote various initiatives.
Apart from continuing dialogue with the government independently as well as via industry bodies such as Internet and Mobile Association of India, the company is trying to work with the Centre on various initiatives on tourism and health programmes.
As data localisation remains a thorny issue, Chinese players seem to be taking a lead over their US-based counterparts.
In July, ByteDance said it is going to set up a data centre in India in the next 6-18 months, as part of its $1-billion commitment to the country. The move is significant, given the Indian government’s ongoing focus on data localisation and the issues TikTok is faced with.
“India is among our strongest markets, and we are happy to be part of the mainframe of Digital India in 15 languages. Since the launch of our platforms in India, we have stored the data of Indian users at industry-leading third party data centres in the US and Singapore. We now believe the time has come to take the next big leap,” the company said in statement.
Last week, the government asked TikTok to answer several questions about its operations in India after some groups objected to content being uploaded there.
“The Chinese use better business diplomacy in comparison to US companies, who are overconfident about the US’ power and think the system will eventually save them. However, there is growing concern and understanding about developing an indigenous technology ecosystem in India. Further, Chinese players saying they will set up a data centre is different from them actually taking real action,” said a senior lawyer who did not wish to be named.
According to industry experts, US-based firms such as Google, Facebook and Twitter enjoy the benefit of having been in India since several years, picking up people who understand the government system well.