Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel’s comment on ‘Poor India’: Did he even say this?

Snapchat is in the news in India for all the wrong reasons. So what exactly is the latest controversy about?

Written by Shruti Dhapola | New Delhi | Updated: April 17, 2017 9:07 am
Snapchat, Evan Spiegel, Snapchat CEO, Snapchat rating, Snapchat CEO India negative comment, Snapchat Poor India comment, Snapchat CEO Variety, Snapchat case, Snapchat backlash India, Uninstall Snapchat, #BoycottSnapchat, apps, technology, technology news Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel’s ‘Poor India comment’: So what exactly is the latest controversy about? We answer all your questions. (Image credit: Reuters)

Snapchat is in the news in India for all the wrong reasons. #UninstallSnapchat is trending big and apparently Google Play Store ratings for the app have fallen. To use a 9gag meme phrase: India is triggered. The reason: Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel is alleged to have said the following statement in 2015: “This app is only for rich people… I don’t want to expand into poor countries like India and Spain.” As of now, it is hard to confirm whether Spain is triggered too, about being clubbed as a ‘poor country.’

For Snapchat, the report doesn’t come at a good time. The company just went public with its IPO and raised over $3.4 billion, but the competition is winning. Instagram Stories now has 200 million daily active users, much more than the 158 million DAUs on Snapchat. Plus it doesn’t help that reports over the last few months have indicated that Snapchat Stories have seen a fall in views for the big creators.

So what exactly is the latest controversy about? We answer all your questions.

What exactly did Spiegel say? Some context please.

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel is alleged to have made this statement in 2015, according to a report in Variety. The crux of the statement is this: Snapchat isn’t an app for poor countries, where people might be on lower end phones, might not have high-end connectivity all at times. Also Spiegel supposedly cites India and Spain as examples.

The context for this: A lawsuit filed by a former Snapchat employee called Anthony Pompliano. Note Pompliano was hired by Snapchat from Facebook, and even suggested ways to fix the problem of the app not doing well abroad.

But Spiegel wasn’t interested, according to the report on Variety. While the ‘India is poor’ comment might be sparking off some outrage, the real issue at hand is the ‘number fudging,’ the context within which this remark was made.

Snapchat, Evan Spiegel, Snapchat CEO, Snapchat rating, Snapchat CEO India negative comment, Snapchat Poor India comment, Snapchat CEO Variety, Snapchat case, Snapchat backlash India, Uninstall Snapchat, #BoycottSnapchat, apps, technology, technology news According to Pompliano’s lawsuit, Snapchat claimed it had 100 million users, which was higher than the 97 million counted by Flurry.

According to Pompliano’s lawsuit, Snapchat claimed it had 100 million users, which was higher than the 97 million counted by Flurry. Also according to the lawsuit, Snapchat was growing much more slowly, in single digits and under 5 per cent, rather than the double digit growth it was claiming.

What is Snapchat’s response? Did Spiegel really make this comment?

Snapchat has replied to the lawsuit and denied all charges. Snapchat’s attorneys are quoted as saying, “The simple fact is that he (Mr Pompliano) knows nothing about Snap’s current metric.” Either way, it is hard to confirm if Spiegel actually made this statement.

Snapchat is known for being secretive about its products and very rarely gives insights on numbers. Spiegel exercises a stringent control on the company and its core product. In fact, even after the IPO both co-founders Spiegel and Bobby Murphy still have majority control over the company.

Snapchat, Evan Spiegel, Snapchat CEO, Snapchat rating, Snapchat CEO India negative comment, Snapchat Poor India comment, Snapchat CEO Variety, Snapchat case, Snapchat backlash India, Uninstall Snapchat, #BoycottSnapchat, apps, technology, technology news The lawsuit by Pomplaino alleges Snap Inc, the parent company of Snapchat lied to advertisers about its numbers, and didn’t have the kind of growth it claimed. (Image credit: Bloomberg)

So what’s the lawsuit about?

The lawsuit by Pomplaino alleges Snap Inc, the parent company of Snapchat lied to advertisers about its numbers, and didn’t have the kind of growth it claimed. His charge is serious since it is alleging that Snap Inc bloated numbers, which investors and advertisers will be forced to consider.

Snap Inc is fighting this, and has now published some new documents in this case, and according to a report in Fortune, the ‘company says it has nothing to hide.’ Though it did try and keep these documents sealed for sometime, but appears to have given up now.

Snap Inc also alleges Pompliano is a disgruntled ex-employee, who was fired in three weeks. It also wants to move the matter into arbitration, which would mean alternate dispute redressal. For Snap Inc, the lawsuit will mean greater investor scrutiny.

Snapchat, Evan Spiegel, Snapchat CEO, Snapchat rating, Snapchat CEO India negative comment, Snapchat Poor India comment, Snapchat CEO Variety, Snapchat case, Snapchat backlash India, Uninstall Snapchat, #BoycottSnapchat, apps, technology, technology news Snap Inc also alleges Pompliano is a disgruntled ex-employee, who was fired in three weeks.

So is Snapchat really an app for rich people?

Like we have said, there’s no way of proving Spiegel actually made the statement. But if you look at Snap Inc’s SEC filing, then it is clear the app doesn’t do well on Android phones and in countries where internet connectivity is poor.

In the “Risks Factors” section of Snap Inc’s SEC filing, here’s what it says about poor internet connections.

“In addition, because our products typically require high bandwidth data capabilities, the majority of our users live in countries with high-end mobile device penetration and high bandwidth capacity cellular networks with large coverage areas. We therefore do not expect to experience rapid user growth or engagement in countries with low smartphone penetration even if such countries have well-established and high bandwidth capacity cellular networks. We may also not experience rapid user growth or engagement in countries where, even though smartphone penetration is high, due to the lack of sufficient cellular based data networks, consumers rely heavily on Wi-Fi and may not access our products regularly.”

If you look at their statement, India typically is not a market where they will do well. Sure all of a sudden 4G is popular thanks to Reliance Jio, but our internet connectivity is far from excellent.

Also many users in India are first time smartphone users, on low-end Android phones, and prefer to conserve data. This also explains why people love WhatsApp or Facebook, which have made sure their apps work well in the country, even with 2G connectivity.

For its part, Snapchat does require a constant and heavy duty internet connection, since the app is so geared around uploading and consuming video content. It has no ‘data saver’ mode as such, though there is a ‘Travel mode’ which you can use to ensure video is loaded only when you tap on the Story.

The other problem for Snapchat: Android has never been their priority and that’s what a majority of people in India use, in fact most of the developing countries, Android reigns supreme.

Again the SEC statement reads, “To continue growth in user engagement, we will need to prioritize development of our products to operate on smartphones with Android operating systems. If we are unable to improve operability of our products on smartphones with Android operating systems, and those smartphones become more popular and fewer people use smartphones with iOS operating systems, our business could be seriously harmed.” In Snapchat’s own words, their success right now is dependent on iOS being popular.

Snapchat, Evan Spiegel, Snapchat CEO, Snapchat rating, Snapchat CEO India negative comment, Snapchat Poor India comment, Snapchat CEO Variety, Snapchat case, Snapchat backlash India, Uninstall Snapchat, #BoycottSnapchat, apps, technology, technology news Snapchat does require a constant and heavy duty internet connection, since the app is so geared around uploading and consuming video content. (Image credit: Reuters)

So then why is this app a big deal? They don’t seem to be a chasing a mass market

Snapchat might not have the numbers like Instagram or Facebook or even WhatsApp. But it has managed to find popularity with young users, who are sharing more and more on the platform. That’s clearly got Facebook scared, which did try and buy out the app in the past. Spiegel refused Zuckerberg’s offer of $3 billion.

Filters, Stories, Vertical videos, articles that load instantly, Spectacles that have gotten popular: Snapchat has made a lot of formats mainstream, and that’s why the competition is trying so hard to kill it.

Of course, Snapchat is facing competition from Instagram, and it doesn’t help the app has a complicated UI, which most adults can’t comprehend. While #UnInstallSnapchat might trend for now, the app certainly isn’t going to die out anytime soon.

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  1. M
    Michael Varghese
    Jun 7, 2017 at 7:50 pm
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    Reply
    1. K
      Kunal
      May 28, 2017 at 9:14 pm
      All supportive comments for Snapchat.. Why?
      Reply
      1. S
        shagunkaushal
        Apr 19, 2017 at 3:34 pm
        Hahaha Foreign Universities are surviving because of poor people Indian Students. Man How can CEO's make stupid comments in the markets they doing business in. Indian software companies have enough expertise and bandwidth to create better Apps then Foreign companies. SNAP CHAT CEO what a stupid accident the day you were born to Stupid Crackhead.
        Reply
        1. T
          Tech Guy
          Apr 21, 2017 at 1:19 am
          How stupid u are do u even know the entire story.
          Reply
        2. R
          Raj Kumar
          Apr 18, 2017 at 8:43 am
          What wrong did he say dia's gdp per capita is very low. Chinese say indians can only bark and cannot dare to stop chinese imports.World mocks on india in olympics dian software sector is largely dependent on foreign countries.And solution to all these is to delete snapchat.Pity!!!!!
          Reply
          1. W
            WE AREN'T PIECE OF SHITTS
            Apr 17, 2017 at 3:58 pm
            Lol you white bulls should think twice before you write anything bad about India And you better go and see the history of this land.. . And I must say that snapchat is an usless app and expanding nudity nothing else You better use it between your family members lol tbh... Jai hind!! !
            Reply
            1. C
              Cyber m@n
              Apr 17, 2017 at 1:34 am
              poor country is complaining and analyzing why are we called as poor. BC aik tou ghareb, ooper se hat dharam. Perpetual indi0ts
              Reply
              1. P
                PROUD INDIAN
                Apr 17, 2017 at 11:41 am
                Basically, looks like words of someone stupid illiterate......Well, If INDIANS stop working in the leading multinational companies. they will soon be defeated by INDIAN Companies.Don't even dare to challenge INDIAN Brains....You are the most ic person I have ever seen....Haha..:P JAI HIND
                Reply
                1. S
                  Sayan rocks
                  Apr 17, 2017 at 12:17 pm
                  So why they(NRI or Service company in India work for US/UK/Austrelia/German client) don't stop working for Foreign client and help India to become better and innovative country? Why Indian student go to abroad to get better education? Why Indian youth like western culture and obsessed in US entertainment/Hollywood? Why Indian want to go to developed counties US, UK and Germany to settle their? Why Indian user use fb,whatsapp,instragam,google instead of create a app by Indian and use it?
                  1. N
                    Neha
                    Apr 18, 2017 at 12:46 pm
                    @SayanRocks dude, you know how much it costs to study in UK, US to an Indian? Yet much of our po tion is there. And then you call us poor😂 Then, if we stop working in these companies, then we "poor people" are gonna be the reason of their poverty. Indian youth wears Western clothes because we find them good not cz we don't like indian clothes. Indians are obsessed with Hollywood bcz unlike you people we aren't racist to divide talent on such stupid in' reasons. And they know.. Other countries"need" indians..or their countries gonna drown. Google's CEO is Indian.. Google needs us..FB, insta and others w/o Indian users gonna drain. So we are one of the strongest reasons you people work and exist! Namastey Jai Hind!
                    1. T
                      Tech Guy
                      Apr 21, 2017 at 1:22 am
                      PROUD INDIAN I am a indian and i don't know much literate u are but ur statement prove that ur simply ignorant.
                  2. A
                    anonymous
                    Apr 16, 2017 at 10:16 pm
                    To be frank, it is so booring app, instagram is better than this
                    Reply
                    1. P
                      PMRN 770
                      Apr 16, 2017 at 7:13 pm
                      Addiction to social media decreases one's intelligence bit by bit. Every one signing up is giving permission to trade their private information to the company to make money. Soon, social media accounts are going to become a gold mine for hackers to steal your information.
                      Reply
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