Twitter, Snap Join $500 Million Round for India’s TikTok

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This story will not make TikTok’s day.

Less than two days after the Indian government banned wildly popular TikTok last year, Bangalore-based Mohalla Tech launched its own short video app, Moj.

Less than a year later, the app has 120 million monthly active users and, on Thursday, announced a $502 million funding round with backers Tiger Global, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Twitter, and Snap.

Block and Replace

India is keen to build its own alternatives to Chinese apps that have gained a global footprint, and last year the government went on a blocking spree to make room. All told, 59 apps were banned, including Tencent’s WeChat and Alibaba’s UC Browser..

India’s regulators said they pose a “threat to sovereignty and integrity.”

It’s worked out so far. The bans have been a boon to startups emerging in their place: competitors suddenly vanished just as digitization of the economy accelerated because of the pandemic.

  • Including Mohalla Tech, now valued at $2.1 billion, at least nine companies in India have reached unicorn status this year.
  • Mohalla, founded in 2015, has now raised over $766 million.

Mohalla also owns ShareChat, India’s answer to WeChat, and counts 280 million users across both its platforms. It’ll use part of the new funding to expand operations in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries, where it hopes to pick up users from diaspora communities.

Twitter Batting .500: Twitter’s shown an increasing interest in building its own portfolio of social media investments. While it landed the Mohalla deal this week, another didn’t pan out: even though it launched competing Spaces, Twitter entered discussions to buy voice-based social network Clubhouse for $4 billion. The talks hit a wall.

the takeaway

Life is pretty sweet without competition.