Sources say Gandhi, who was also leading efforts to sell TikTok’s India business in the past few months, is currently evaluating options with some leading Indian startups looking to scale up operations, especially with an AI tech and machine learning component.
Tiktok did not respond to ET’s mail at the time of publication of the story.
Gandhi had joined TikTok in October 2019 from Times Network.
“Nikhil played an instrumental role in popularising Tiktok in India. Under his leadership, the app revolutionised content creation in India
by creating a brand new ecosystem for content creators that offered equal opportunity to people from all strata of society to showcase their talent. Tiktoker actually became a word in the Indian lexicon,” said an ex Tiktok senior official.
Under Gandhi, TikTok had started generating Rs 20-25 crore in advertising by Q3, 2019.
The outgoing CEO also played a key part in bringing in the bollywood stars—Deepika Padukone, Jacqueline Fernandes etc.—to the popular platform.
Industry experts estimate TikTok would have garnered between Rs 200-250 crore revenue in FY 19-20.
The founder of ByteDance, Zhang Yiming and ex-CEO of TikTok Kevin Mayers had hired Gandhi to unroll their mega plans for India—$1 billion investment in the Indian business over three years—before the company was asked to shut its business.
At the time its Indian business was shut, the Chinese app had more than 200 million users in India.
TikTok was banned completely in India by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology on 29 June 2020, along with scores of other Chinese apps and the ban was made permanent in January 2021.
Earlier ET had reported that most TikTok employees in functions such as sales and marketing had left and some staffers working in the technology team along with Gandhi had been moved under the cluster that handles Middle East and North Africa (MENA), Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Turkey region.
Just before shutting shop, TikTok had started giving tough competition to Facebook and YouTube, with people spending more than an hour daily on the app on an average and daily active users count crossing 100 million.