Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Businessweek
Technology

In India, the YouTube-TikTok Rivalry Turns Nasty

It’s Google against China’s ByteDance in an internet battle with geopolitical overtones.

YouTuber Ajey Nagar, better known as CarryMinati.

YouTuber Ajey Nagar, better known as CarryMinati.

Source: CarryMinati

Not many people in India had heard of CarryMinati until last month. Then, amid the country’s novel coronavirus lockdown, the YouTube Inc. influencer’s video collected more than 80 million views within a few days. It was on track to become the most-liked non-music video in history when YouTube abruptly took it down, citing anti-harassment policies. By then, the channel run by the bespectacled 20-year-old—whose real name is Ajey Nagar—had gone viral. CarryMinati was a household name.

What was so contentious? The clip was a takedown of rival TikTok’s major star, Amir Siddiqui, known mainly for his comedy clips and lip-syncing. It was done in the style of a “roast,” though there was none of the usual good-natured ribbing. Instead, Nagar, who usually opines on celebrity weddings and reality shows, let fly with choice Hindi expletives and transgender slurs such as pari (fairy) and mitha (candy). Fans, spoiling for a fight, shared his video in the millions. When it emerged from other users that Amir’s brother—another influencer, Faizal Siddiqui—had glorified acid attacks on a woman on a separate account, TikTok was pressured to suspend Amir’s feed also.