How Will India Gain From Narendra Modi's Social Media Drive?

by Sohini Bagchi    Jul 04, 2014

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that platforms like Facebook and Twitter could be used as a critical element for effective governance and for better interaction between the people and governments.

Known as one of the world’s most social media savvy political leaders, Narendra Modi’s social media drive can have two clear implications - using social media to uplift India’s social, cultural and political image in the global landscape, thereby bringing more business across industries and attracting investors. The second implication is prompting social media giants such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to look at India as a key growth market. Either ways, it can boost the Indian economy.

Read: Emerging Markets To Drive Twitter’s Future Growth

For example, the Prime Minister has recently permitted Twitter unprecedented access to his administration. “Twitter has been given direct access to ministers and their staff, advising them on social media usage, as well as organising workshops to train ambassadors and other diplomats,” Raheel Khursheed, head of news, politics and government at Twitter India told Reuters.

The Prime Minister is reportedly the third most followed world leader on Twitter after overtaking Indonesian President S B Yudhoyono, according to a recent press release. He has around 5,087,980 followers to Yodoyono’s- 5,08743 followers, even though US President Barack Obama and the Pope Francis lead with 43 million and 14 million followersrespectively on Twitter.

Modi has been actively using Twitter to connect with the masses “reinforcing the tool of digital diplomacy in a larger context making the social media platform a powerful channel for communicating and engaging with all Indians across the country,” says the press note. His successful election campaign over the social media sites has put both Twitter and Facebook at the centre of his government’s media and research strategies, prompting the PM to encourage his ministers and lawmakers to follow suit.

Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook who is currently on her first official trip to India has also said that India is a top market for Facebook in terms of growth and that the social media giant is using the talent of India to grow its business both locally and globally.

Read: Why Is India A Key Growth Market For Facebook?

Sandberg has met the Prime Minister - who is also the second most popular politician in the world by Facebook’s own estimation - to reportedly discuss how digital media helps with direct communication between people and the government and how India could use the platform for spreading awareness among people. Sandberg is also promoting the potential of Facebook as a tool for small businesses and economic expansion, though she believes India’s low Internet penetration is something that needs to be addressed.

At present, the social media site with over a 100 million users is the second biggest market for Facebook. But, Sandberg said, this was fraction of the total population of India and that Facebook is working to bolster internet connectivity in India to bring more people online.

Read: India To Have Over 500Mn Internet Users By 2018

At present though India has the world’s third-largest Internet user base after the US and China, just 13.7 percent of the population had access to the Internet in 2013, according to consulting firm eMarketer. By 2018 more than a quarter of population is forecast to be on the Web. However, a McKinsey report notes that, the Internet has the potential to contribute $100 billion to India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2015.

With more people getting into mobile and social for business promotion, transactions, information and infotainment, the Internet will have immense potential to help widespread access to education, healthcare, banking, jobs and access to government services that has remained largely untapped until now. It is here that Narendra Modi is looking make a difference by bringing a mobile and social revolution in the country.

As writer and journalist Vijayendra Mohanty puts it, “Narendra Modi perhaps has the distinction of being an ‘early adopter’. And if signs are to be heeded, it seems that much like the ‘demographic dividend’- India can boast a dividend to be reaped in terms of social media penetration too.”