India Market Director of Twitter Rishi Jaitly talks about Twitter as the world’s town square, how the magic of the site is in discovering new content and how we all live in public now. This session was moderated by Anant Goenka, Wholetime Director and Head, New Media
Rishi Jaitly: Everybody loves to jump to what’s interesting on Twitter. Twitter was invented as an SMS status update service in California around eight years ago. During an earthquake in San Francisco, the founders of Twitter understood what they had stumbled upon when people began tweeting, ‘Did you feel that?’. Immediately, it became clear that people could effectively use this tool as it encapsulates public conversation live. When I took up this job and came to India, I did a lot of research about the history of Twitter in India, trying to understand when people first started using it here. Many people started taking note of Twitter during the 26/11 attack. That is when we saw a surge of tweets on our platform. You can find tweets sent from Colaba in Mumbai that night saying, ‘I’m trapped’. Since then, the history of Twitter has reflected what’s been happening in our national psyche — whether it’s India’s victory in the World Cup or the protests in Delhi in 2012. I remember sitting at an airport and getting to almost hear the roar of the crowd. That’s what we think of Twitter as — this idea of a town square, where you first follow, and then you connect with others. Mr Arvind Kejriwal tweeting or a bunch of boys in Mumbai tweeting about a candlelight vigil at Colaba is what Twitter is all about. The IPL brings in a lot of energy on Twitter. Last year, during the Delhi Assembly elections, Twitter was used by the Aam Aadmi Party. During the last couple of years, we have become much more central to public conversation in India. More than a quarter of a billion people use Twitter worldwide. We are very excited about the ways that India has responded. What we care about is growth. We are doing many things in India. Twitter as a platform is rich in media, and India as a country enjoys its media. We can add value and delight to every single Indian every single day. In this election itself, from Mr Narendra Modi to Congress leaders, many people were using Twitter. You could dial a phone number to receive Mr Modi’s tweets via SMS. It was the same with the Congress.
Anant Goenka: You’re talking about getting people on Twitter. A year-and-a-half ago at the Ramnath Goenka Awards, we had a panel discussion on “Who’s afraid of social media?” and Arun Jaitley, Kapil Sibal, Aroon Purie, Madhu Kishwar and Manish Tewari and others weren’t on Twitter. Fast forward to today, and everybody from that panel is continued…