By Ashna Ambre
Mint, New Delhi.
Why deal with pesky journalists when you can reach millions of customers and other stakeholders directly?
Indian start-up founders are taking a leaf out of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s media playbook: they’re increasingly using Twitter to burnish both their personal and company brands, reach millions of young customers and even recruit talent.
And unlike Modi, entrepreneurs such as Vijay Shekhar Sharma of Paytm, Sachin Bansal of Flipkart and Deepinder Goyal of Zomato are also taking potshots at rivals on social media, writing about their views on a wide range of topics and selectively displaying aspects of their personalities especially by posting photos.
Twitter, a more public forum than rival Facebook Inc., is seen as an ideal medium for these founders to build their brands given the wide reach of the medium and the fact that unlike with newspapers, they have total control over what they write and want to communicate. For instance, many e-commerce entrepreneurs regularly tweet about how their customers are delighted with their services, which provides a useful counterpoint to the hundreds of customer complaints many of these companies are flooded with in any given week.
“Twitter provides instant, direct access to a larger audience; in case of Facebook, the audience is limited to personal connections. Flow of trends, reviews, responses and personal thoughts is faster on Twitter,” said Manish Bhatt, founder director of Scarecrow Communications Ltd.
“People relate to Flipkart with Sachin Bansal’s face, that’s how Twitter is helping in brand creation for the company. On the contrary constant arguments, hammering may lead to followers judging a company not on its product, but how and what the founder posts in public. The Mughal emperor Jehangir, was known to fit 60 bells in his court so he could directly address the problems of his men. Twitter is that same bell which founders can use to address complaints, concerns, promote the company and create the personal touch,” added Bhatt.
The use of Twitter by start-up founders highlights some of the ways in which technology has changed marketing and content consumption. The entrepreneurs are doing what many leaders of large conglomerates and established companies have struggled to do–build an instant connection, or at least give the impression of a personal connect, and keep their brands active in the minds of millions of customers.
According to a report by market research company eMarketer Inc., some 18.1 million people in India used Twitter in 2014 and this number is estimated to increase by 36.5% this year.
Some tweets by founders of top start-ups
Sachin Bansal of Flipkart
Don’t blame India for your failure to hire great engineers. They join for culture and challenge,” his response to Snapdeal chief operating officer Rohit Bansal’s comment on the lack of engineering talent in India.
When foreign companies do it in India — Innovation. Indians do it — Violation. #NetNeutralityDiscrimination?,”
Deepinder Goyal of Zomato
“Housing is what happens when investors leave founders with little skin in the game. Especially, 20 year old founders with nothing to lose,” he tweeted when Rahul Yadav, quit as Housing CEO (he later withdrew the resignation)
“Looking for (ex) consultants to join our growth team. If you are done with making slides, email me at email@example.com,” is what he tweeted with a impact effort graph posting job applications
Bhavish Aggarwal of Ola Cabs
2 March after Ola announced a deal to buy smaller rival TaxiForSure
“Really excited to welcome @taxiforsure team to @Olacabs! Look forward to the partnership and our vision of revolutionising urban mobility :)”
Vikas Malpani of Housing Portal Common Floor
21 May about a VCCircle story on a potential merger of the company with classifieds site Quikr
“@vccircle@commonfloor@techcirclein What are you smoking??!!”
Vijay Shekhar of Paytm
“Airport CISF guy:Ye Paytm ka card laptop pe kaise aaya?
Me:Company ne diya
He:Paytm bahut Baidya co hai, main Paytm bahut use karta hoon. :)”
Kunal Bahl of Snapdeal
25 May (referring to mobile commerce)
“The future of consumer tech platforms lies in simple use cases, especially given a 4 inch screen world.”