FILES) This file photo taken on November 21, 2019 shows the logo of the social media video sharing app Tiktok displayed on a tablet screen in Paris. - The fast-growing video-sharing app TikTok said TJuly 21, 2020 it plans to add some 10,000 US jobs over the next three years, as it battles complaints over its ties to China. A spokesman said the new jobs would be in various regions of the US in engineering, marketing and other sectors. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP)
“Before TikTok, I didn’t have the confidence to talk to people. I would just do my work, and as a stay-at-home wife I never made eye contact with people or even spoke much,” Verma said.
Speaking a vast number of languages and dialects, around 70 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people live in rural areas, a world away from big cities such as Mumbai and New Delhi.
Amitabh Kumar from Social Media Matters, a group encouraging “social media for social change”, said that for many people in this huge hinterland, TikTok was a “glass ceiling breaker”.
“Instead of Bollywood and rich people, finally there was a chance for common people to create something in 15 seconds which makes you laugh or cry or think or engage,” he told AFP.
Its different tools were simple to use for those who don’t speak or read English or Hindi, and the app worked well on low-speed internet.
“Twitter cracked the short-form storytelling in text — with 140 and then 280 (characters). I think TikTok did it with 15 seconds,” he added.
And it reminded the urban elite of India’s vast diversity and chasmic differences in wealth.
“What we, people sitting in Delhi, probably judged and made fun of was high-class entertainment for a lot of people who never got a chance to express themselves,” he said.
“Here was for the first time a space that rural India was enjoying.”
‘Not a big person’
Another minor star was Rupali Manoj Bhandole, 29, a housewife and mother who left school at 14 living in a small town in Maharashtra state that gets piped water for an hour a day and endures frequent power cuts.
She would upload videos of herself poking fun at her weak economic status — and soon amassed 300,000 followers.
“A person who works with a Marathi TV show called me a star… I can’t tell you happy I felt,” she told AFP.
“I only studied until Class 9. I’m not a big person.”
Bhandole said she wept when TikTok was banned.
Archana Arvind Dhormise hopes the benefits she derived from the platform will last.
The 35-year-old from Pimpalgaon in Maharashtra seldom left home for fear of censure from her conservative family and neighbours.
But then the home beautician became the “Rani Mukherji of TikTok” — a reference to a famous Bollywood actress — dancing and miming to famous songs, and gaining 75,000 fans.
She won a local competition for one of her TikTok videos. Now she has landed a part in a short film.
“I had never in my life gone up on stage and spoken or even initiated a conversation without having a million thoughts in my head,” Dhormise told AFP.
“But being on TikTok and seeing all the love I was getting gave me the confidence to keep that going, and also be confident in the real world.”