Companies such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter are finding it extremely difficult to rope in new India heads.
India's social media ecosystem is practically running on autopilot. Four of the country's top social media platforms -- Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and now LinkedIn -- do not have a head in India.
In the last one year, starting with Umang Bedi, who was managing director of Facebook India, the exits of Taranjeet Singh and Akshay Kothari -- India heads of Twitter and LinkedIn, respectively -- have left the offices of the three firms without a chief. Facebook's chat messenger WhatsApp is yet take up a local office, team and a top boss in the country.
The information technology ministry, which has time and again been warning companies such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp over issues ranging from data leaks, fake news and charges of influencing elections, has also taken notice of the situation and might call them soon to ask when they are planning to fill these vacancies. The four social media platforms have a total of about 350 million monthly active users in India.
While top bosses of these firms, sitting out of headquarters in the US, have deputed someone to temporarily fill in the position, there is a question mark on who and when would take the top spot.
However, sources close to LinkedIn said the company has started the process of having discussions with professional chief executive officers and would be hiring someone from outside.
Sources said Kothari, who has already moved to the US, is all set to join a technology start-up and develop a new product for the firm.
"I do not think he is planning to start a new venture. He was having discussions with a start-up in the US and as he is a products person as heart, he wants to create something new. His exit however should not be equated to the exits in Facebook and Twitter, as LinkedIn for the longest time has managed to stay away from any controversy," said a source close to the company.
Companies such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter, however, are finding it extremely difficult to rope in new India heads. Scandals over the last one year, including selling data to Cambridge Analytica, allegations of influencing elections as well as incidents of fake news leading to lynching in different parts of the country, have left Facebook and WhatsApp controversy ridden.
"Whoever takes up the position in India would have to deal with the government and work on quelling the fears of influencing elections, work on making the platform fake news proof and clean Facebook's image in general. This is a task not many CEOs would be ready to take," said a source close to Facebook.
WhatsApp for the last six months has been planning to set up a 100-150 member strong team in India and is supposedly in the final stages of selecting a head of operations. At present, WhatsApp is running all its operations from its base in Singapore.
However, the government has made it clear that if WhatsApp wants to continue with its payments service, it would have to set up a base in India.
"To support our users in India and continue our investment in the country, it's our top priority to hire a local leader who can help us build a team on the ground," a WhatsApp spokesperson said.
Twitter is facing the same problem of finding a top boss who would be able to deal with the government, law and order agencies as well as regulatory bodies in the country. The other problem is of monetising.
Experts believe that despite their huge reach, except for Google, none of the other major global social platforms has been able to monetise their platforms in the country.
The government has over the last one year warned social media giants such as Facebook and Google that they should take concrete steps to prevent the spread of fake news, that has led to a series of lynchings, as well as riots all over the country.
Lead photograph: Pixelkult/Pixabay.com