Snapchat is facing criticism after a former employee of the social messaging company alleged that CEO Evan Spiegel once said India was “too poor” for the social network to expand its global base. The statement was apparently made in 2015 but has come into light thanks to Anthony Pompliano, who has sued Snapchat for having inflated numbers about user data to investors. Pompliano’s lawsuit against the company was made public a few days ago.
Obviously Spiegel’s remarks on calling India “too poor” has enraged millions of Indians, most of whom have never used the app. And ever since the news broke of Snapchat disrespecting India, users have started to delete the app. #UninstallSnapchat and #BoycottSnapchat are currently trending on Twitter.
Snapchat is a popular messaging and photo-sharing mobile app, with over 161 million daily active users worldwide. The popularity of Snapchat among celebrities, influencers and teens made the app one of the most vibrant social media platforms. Snapchat soared in popularity after it created self-deleting pictures. Essentially, the app lets you quickly send disappearing messages, photos and videos – either directly to friends or to everyone who follows your Snapchat account. Snapchat has also introduced a Stories feature, which the company introduced in 2013. The concepts have been so popular that rival Facebook has adopted it across its platforms since.
The app’s growth is fueled by its innovative features and its popularity among the urban youth. While there is no clarity on the exact user base of Snapchat in India, some believe the app has 4 million users here as of last year. This is a small number, which means it is nowhere no close to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook in terms of popularity. Although the app is free to download, Snapchat hasn’t been a success if we go by the unverified numbers. Which also means users in India don’t care much about Snapchat. Neither do smartphone makers. So while Facebook, Instagram and Twitter come pre-bundled on most smartphones, Snapchat never is.
Snapchat’s popularity in India is limited to some Bollywood actors and celebrities trying to tap into its mostly urban teen user base. Given that Facebook and WhatsApp both now have the features which makes Snapchat what it is, it will be tough for this company to get Indian users to adopt it in favour of the others. Also, Snapchat is not a platform everyone can understand and this learning element is a big hurdle for most new users.
If it was purely about how Snapchat is for the elite, then Speigel clearly does not understand that the Indian middle class is bigger than the population of the US. His ignorance of the demography could actually be making the company overlook a huge business opportunity. But then at the end of the day, Snapchat has nothing to offer the Indian user and it is not the other way round.