Exclusive | Mitron: Not Indian TikTok, But Rebadged Pakistani App Bought for Rs 2,500

Shouvik Das

Mitron app, which has been attempting to tap into both the vocal for local and the anti-TikTok narratives, appears to have not been made by an IIT student, after all. News18 has learnt that the Mitron app’s entire source code, including its full set of features and the user interface, was bought from Pakistani software developer company, Qboxus. According to Irfan Sheikh, founder and chief executive of Qboxus, his company sold the source code of their app to Mitron’s promoter for $34 (~Rs 2,600).

Speaking to News18, Sheikh said, “We expect our customers to use our code and build something on their own. But Mitron’s developer has taken our exact product, changed the logo and uploaded it on their store.”

However, Sheikh affirms that the problem is not this. “There is no problem with what the developer has done. He paid for the script and used it, which is okay. But, the problem is with people referring to it as an Indian-made app, which is not true especially because they have not made any changes.”

Sheikh further confirmed that the app was sold by his company to Mitron for $34 on CodeCanyon, which is about Rs 2,600. When asked about the data hosting process, Sheikh said that while Qboxus does offer the option to host user data on their server, Mitron did not opt for that, and has instead chosen to host their user data on their own server. However, there has been no clarity on Mitron’s treatment of user data so far.

In an email response to News18’s queries, ShopKiller e-Commerce, which is the promoter behind the Mitron app, said, “We want to work in stealth mode, and didn't want people to know us by our name. I found (the article) a little disappointing. I would have liked you to appreciate the fact that we are working hard on the app, and the reason for developing the app was just to give a ‘Make In India’ alternative to people.”

While the Make in India narrative may work for many, particularly with prime minister Narendra Modi’s aatmanirbhar and vocal for local push, it is important to hold checks and balances in place before promoting such apps. ShopKiller, the pseudonym hiding the promoters of the app, failed to provide an adequate response regarding Mitron’s privacy policy, or any info regarding the scarcity of details about the app.

It is important to note that purchasing an app’s source code and using it with a different name is not illegal or unprecedented. Qboxus has in the past built multiple apps that work as clones of other popular apps. Some of its offerings include Hashgram (based on Instagram), Foodies Single Restaurant (akin to Zomato) and TicTic (replicated from TikTok). Of the lot, it is the latter that happens to be one of their most popular listings on the Google Play Store, with over 5,000 downloads and 50-odd reviews with a rating of 3.3.

Alongside offering these apps as direct downloads, Qboxus also offers the source codes of their apps for purchase by other interested parties. Some apps apart from Mitron, which were based on Qboxus’ TicTic, and hence offer a very similar interface as Mitron, include ‘Follow’ (released in September 2019), KidsTok (released in December 2019) and HotToks (released in December 2019). As a result, there is no ground for Mitron and its team, which still wants to work “in stealth mode”, to claim that its app is a built in India alternative to TikTok that has been developed by them from scratch. In fact, the team has not even put the effort of changing the interface one bit, which makes for clearly fraudulent practice.

Given the present situation of apps without adequate security protocol on Google Play, it remains to be seen if Google penalises the Mitron app for operating without any privacy policy, no clarity on what it does with user data, and simply hopping on to the Make in India bandwagon by purchasing the source code of a TikTok clone.