Breaking a Glass Ceiling
But it wasn’t just the money.
“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.”