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Exclusive: Facebook-owned Lasso to soon take on TikTok in India


In a bid to compete with TikTok’s popularity in India, Facebook is planning to launch its short-video sharing app Lasso by the first quarter of the next financial year and most likely by May, according to two people familiar with the matter. 

TikTok has seen a phenomenal rise globally, including India, where it has given a fierce competition to several social media apps — including Facebook. 

With Lasso, which was launched in the US in 2018 and a year later it made debut in Mexico, Facebook is looking to win back the users that turned to the world of short videos via TikTok. Facebook is also looking at foraying Lasso into other emerging markets, including Indonesia. 

“Facebook Singapore has been working with a team of a dozen people to prepare for the launch since October,” said one of the two people cited above, on condition of anonymity. “They have been mapping several aspects that triggered the growth of TikTok in India through third parties,” he said.

Similar to TikTok, Lasso lets users create and share short videos with the overlay of songs. According to the Google Play Store, the app has been downloaded over a million times. We couldn’t find the number of downloads on the Apple App Store, but it says that the app supports the Hindi language.

“Facebook has to fight TikTok tooth and nail in India, and it doesn’t want to leave any stone unturned to counter the Bytedance-owned app,” said the second source. 

According to him, Facebook has also been laying out an aggressive strategy to woo content creators and influencers away from TikTok. It had recently launched Instagram Reels in Brazil, a music remix feature which lets users make 15-second videos and share them as stories in a move aimed at countering TikTok’s raging popularity.

“Lasso is looking at onboarding influencers and celebrities by promising a minimum guarantee which is higher in amount when compared to what TikTok offers them right now,” said the above-quoted source. He also requested anonymity as he is not allowed to speak to the media.

Although TikTok has denied on many occasions that it pays content creators, several media reports have confirmed the paid association of the app with its influencers.

Sources also said that ‘Facebook Watch’, their video-on-demand service, has been struggling to retain publishers and users. “Many news publishers, including some of the entertainment media houses have moved away from Watch due to poor monetisation. YouTube still gives them better monetization opportunities when compared to Watch,” said the first source.

Facebook, however, denies any such expansion plans. “Lasso is currently available in the US, Mexico and Colombia — we don’t have plans to expand to India or Indonesia at this time,” said a Facebook spokesperson in an emailed response to Entrackr queries.

Over the past two years, TikTok has recorded unprecedented growth in India. In a span of just 27 months, it was estimated to have amassed about 250 million users. With such a user base, the app is only behind Facebook’s estimated 300 and WhatsApp’s 400 million users, respectively.

Several industry experts and analysts believe that TikTok is becoming an imminent threat to Facebook and its ecosystem’s dominance in India. With Lasso, the company aims to derail TikTok’s popularity and virality in India. 

“TikTok has been eating up a decent market share of Facebook, so much so that the latter is now advertising on TikTok for customer acquisition,” said one of the persons mentioned above. 

Will Facebook be able to cripple TikTok’s growth in India and worldwide with Lasso? While we have to wait for the answer, it will surely be a tough fight for Facebook.

Update: The post has been updated to reflect that Lasso was launched in the US and Mexico, not Brazil. We regret the error.

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