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An Indian’s reply to Sarah Lacy from Pando Daily

April 24, 2012

I stumbled upon a post on Pando Daily post titled Why Aren’t More Indians Using Twitter? by Sarah Lacy. It described or rather blamed Indians for not using it properly. I don’t quite agree with her and hence I thought of writing this blog post. Before you proceed, read the post over there and before commenting over there read this blog post!

Dear Sarah,

I am not writing this letter to deny that facts that you wrote, many of them might be right. I am writing this letter to bring to your notice that went unnoticed.

I would quote what you wrote and then write what I feel about it. So lets begin.

1. Size

… Only 33% have access to modern sanitation…

Link: Bihar paradox: Phones outnumber toilets

…Very few are on the Web– less than 50 million by some estimates…So when it comes to the consumer Internet, India’s gargantuan size doesn’t yet translate into users.

This small sized internet consumers doesn’t explain why India ranks second globally, in terms of YouTube video uploads, given that broadband in India is scarce. This was one of the many examples where Indians’ so-called-small-size is making a huge impact.

2. English

English is the lingua franca, but it’s hardly universally spoken. It’s spoken in the business circles in the big cities but fewer than 20 million Indians even work in the formal economy, by some estimates…

The figure is wrong. The total number of people speaking English is 125 million. It does not matter whether they use it formally or not, what matters is that they can use it! You don’t need formal English to be able to use twitter.

3. Democracy

Yes, it’s a democracy in name, but a highly dysfunctional one. Democracy doesn’t stop India from wanting to censor information, so some of the same thorniness and PR nightmares of doing business in China apply in India.

ROFL. If Indian democracy is highly dysfunctional then I must say democracy doesn’t exist in USA :P Democracy in India is one of the most functional and we Indians have pride in it. Of course there are some issues like censorship of information but that would be tackled. It were the Americans not us who came out with PIPA and SOPA. Had our democracy been dysfunctional then the person who speculated of a coup would have been behind the bars and not trending for days on “Twitter”!! Thus ours is a highly functional democracy.

4. Middle Class

In India, “white collar” outsourcing jobs have given Indians a much bigger leg up than a factory job. But there are far far fewer of them. So overall figures about soaring incomes can be misleading.

Yeah I agree, you need to have money to buy a computer, then get an internet connection but most importantly you need to have electricity. And only the rich can tackle this completely!!

Across a host of indices like literacy, life expectancy and quality of life, India is improving at the rate of about 1% per year, according to the World Bank.

Blame corruption for that. (Yeah we Indians are very good at the blame game!)

…In fact, it’s hurt India in the past because investors and Web companies have come in enthusiastically and then pulled out once the promises of the billion person economy didn’t translate…

…And a lot of the top line metrics can be highly misleading– as many VCs and entrepreneurs have learned the hard way….

Yeah, India is a promising country but the reality is very different. Many companies have tried their luck, energy, money, ideas, etc. and failed miserably. To name a few Amazon, EBay, and the countless companies. Even Apple ever managed to sell its iPhone (yeah the genius of Steve Jobs gave up when it came to India) here nor was Motorola able to sell its mobile phone nor Samsung or Apple or MSI or Asus or Toshiba – the largest laptop manufacturers – managed to sell laptops in India. But where Amazon and EBay failed, Flipkart succeeded; where Motorola failed Nokia and Samsung succeeded; where no one succeeded HP and Dell succeeded. Do I need to go into McDonalds, KFC, and the likes, no? From all the companies mentioned above only Flipkart is Indian proving India is not a misleading market. You only need to know how to sell.

When you said that the promises of the billion person economy didn’t translate, you forgot an important lesson – Customer is always right!

But even knowing all of this, I’m still surprised that Twitter isn’t doing better in India.

You mean above points don’t imply to twitter? All of my efforts in typing the above lines are in vain now. Damn! Then why the heck did you mention them? Just because you wanted to ramble about a not-so-good-condition of one of the emerging markets!! “Technically, a woman can not be called a virgin if she is raped. But is it correct? No. In the same manner you should not call a nation poor if she had been robbed for 190 years.”

The first guy in the comments had problem with the image of the lady with the phone that you used. But I don’t have any problem with it. Read the below quote to know the reason.

Then the villager held up a cell phone. “Is this you what mean?” he seemed to ask.
The little connectivity meter on the phone display had four bars. There are significant swaths of the United States of America where one can barely pull in a signal—or gets no bars at all. But here in rural India, the signal was strong.

Quoted from the book “In the Plex – How Google Thinks, Works and Shapes our Life” by Steven Levy

Now lets think why is doing well and twitter is not. That would be post in itself. Hence I am cutting it short.

And Indians are notoriously outspoken, loving to argue and debate anything.

You have said it. Facebook offers no limits. Twitter is just 140 characters short! Even our Diwali, Christmas text greetings exceed 160 characters then how can you expect us to use Twitter. Which offers better features to argue and debate? Twitter or Facebook?

Just make a list of features offered by Facebook and list of features not offered by twitter :P and you’ll figure out why twitter is not The Thing in India. You may also look into the comments on your post. Some of them are insightful.

Considering that you are an award winning journalist, it was disappointing that you did not reply to some of the valid comments on your post. But wait, isn’t journalism different from Blogging? Sorry I take my words back. And it is very sad that you did not tag your post under Ramblings. :P

Finally I am no one and my words don’t matter hence ignore me like the commenters on your post.

Yours truly,

Rahul Pandey

(Gujarati by birth, UP-Bihari by blood, Indian by heart and human by soul.)

PS. I have no personal, economical or emotional enmity towards any person, nation, or company or anyone else mentioned above. Forgive me for my grammar.

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One Comment
  1. Pratyush permalink

    check this: This is the third time the US Congress has tried to attack Internet freedom… #stopCISPA What would you like to say about this?

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