While Mahindra isn’t the first person to think that building a social network out of India was a good idea, past attempts have all failed to compete with the multi-billion dollar giants Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and the like.
At the time when hatred for social network giant Facebook is at an all-time high, Anand Mahindra, chairman of the Mahindra group, in a tweet suggested that it could be time for India to have its own social network, even offering to back good ideas with seed capital.
“Beginning to wonder if it’s time to consider having our own social networking company that is very widely owned, professionally managed and willingly regulated. Any relevant Indian start-ups out there? If any young teams have such plans I’d like to see if I can assist with seed capital,” Mahindra wrote on micro-blogging platform Twitter on Monday.
By Tuesday morning, Mahindra’s tweet was greeted with hundreds of responses from individuals with suggestions and pitches for their own startups. Among the suggestions was one from Jaspreet Bindra, SVP of Digital Transformation at Mahindra, who suggested a blockchain enabled social network could be a great idea.
Gauging the excitement his tweet had sparked, Mahindra quickly roped in Bindra to help him review the flurry of ideas that were pouring in. Known to kick off storms on Twitter with his humorous, inspirational and opinionated tweets, Mahindra is one of the most candid Indian industrialists on the micro-blogging platform.
Even Union Minister of Law and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad tweeted in support of Mahindra’s idea. Prasad had last week threatened Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg that India would take action against them if found to be involved in swaying of any election results like in the Cambridge Analytica scam that has emerged.
“Thank you all for the flood of responses, suggestions & proposals. Please copy your tweets to my colleague @j_bindra (Jaspreet Bindra) who will work with me on this exploration. If nothing else, it should be fun…” he said on Twitter on Tuesday.
While Mahindra isn’t the first person to think that building a social network out of India was a good idea, past attempts have all failed to compete with the multi-billion dollar giants Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and the like. The online Indian social networks that have succeeded to some extent are matrimony services like Bharat Matrimony and Shaadi.com.
In the early 2000s, Guruji was a search engine that tried to become the Google for India, however, it lost out to the American giant within a couple of years.
Moreover, Facebook and WhatsApp are among the most widely used services in India, with their user base in the country being in the hundreds of millions. Local apps and services, especially social networks, have struggled to play in the top as they’ve lacked the kind of firepower global companies have.
However, with the events unfolding globally, Facebook’s lax outlook towards protecting user data and their privacy, has drawn it a lot of flak, including in India where several people have joined in on the #deletefacebook movement. Global celebrities such as billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk are followed by millions of Indians, several of whom cheered when he deleted the Facebook pages of his companies SpaceX and Tesla last week.
However, experts and other people on social networks pointed out that while the Indian elite understand the ramifications of data breaches and theft of privacy, majority of the social network’s users in the country are still blissfully unaware of what was happening globally.
Considering Facebook is one among the first service people in small towns and rural areas begin using when they get access to the Internet, the ability for a new player to break this is almost negligible.
Image: Anand Mahindra. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters.