Evan Spiegel (allegedly) called us poor, and we are!

I am sure many of you woke up today to see your timeline and twitter feeds filled with posts relating to Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegel saying that Snapchat is not for poor countries like India. For some reason, that enraged people so much that every second post was related to boycotting Snapchat. I started to write a status update to express my feelings regarding this, but realised later that this issue is not just about someone calling us poor and us boycotting, it is much deeper.

For one thing, Evan never went out and said those things. It was alleged by an ex-employee of the company who had a feud with the CEO. So he had motives to hurt his image, and he might be doing just that. He said this and hoped that people would take his word without bothering to fact check — and the rich minds that we have, we did exactly that. So all this outrage against the company might just be the result of a false claim. And we shouldn’t blindly act according to someone’s claims. Consequences can be dire if false stories are spread across the internet like that. Ask Hillary Clinton, she will tell you.

But let’s suppose Evan Spiegel was stupid enough to claim that world’s second largest smartphone market is not his target audience, and that they are poor, what then?

It’s not like he has said anything wrong, did he? We are poor. Extremely poor. Maybe not you and I. But this is a nation of 1.3 billion people, at least 170 million of which do not even earn Rs 120 a day (data by world bank). And its not like the rest 1.13 billion live a life of lux. If you simply google Per Capita GDP (PPP) for India and USA, you will see that India ranks somewhere around 110–120 depending on whose data you look at (world bank or IMF) and USA rank around 10–13. The disparity should be clear by this itself, but I thought lets go another step forward. An average US citizen earns $ 56000–57000 in a year, adjusted to a single price level. An average Indian on the other hand, when adjusted to the same price level, earns about $ 6000–6500 per year. That is barely 11% of US’s per capita GDP. And we are adjusting for price levels here. Living in India is cheaper as compared to USA, so US’s figures are brought down and India’s figures are inflated up here. Of course we are poor, his net worth is equal to the combined income of 6,50,000 Indians. Don’t kid yourself into thinking otherwise.

Somebody shared a tweet saying Mukesh Ambani’s worth is 30 Billion Dollars as compared to 4 Billion Dollars of Snapchat. So he can buy it 7.5 times over. Okay, I don’t know if its a good idea to pitch one of our richest citizen against an upcoming entrepreneur in California. Because its stupid. The Ambani’s have been ruling the business world in India for years, and Snapchat came out just a couple of years ago. We should be ashamed that the richest man in India is worth only 7 times someone who owns “Just another social media company” in USA. Taking pride? Really?

Let’s also read into “Target Market” part of the statement, since nobody else wants to talk about it. First of all, no successful CEO in today’s world will ever ignore India as it is one of the largest Smartphone market. But, it is not profitable enough. When one sees the sheer size of the market, one expects to have healthy sales in India. But the trend in India is not to spend on apps. If Snapchat was a paid app, would it be so popular? Or if the tiara filter or the dog filter was an add-on from in-app purchases, would you see it everywhere on the internet? I rest my case.

This is not to say that we should not all uninstall Snapchat. I think we should do it anyway (I hate those ugly filters). And yea, Evan Spiegel is not exactly a good person either, but this is not what this article is about. It’s about our reactions to what we see on social media, and how easily we get offended.

Now, as bad as this sounds, I love my country. I am just pointing out facts here. Facts that everyone should know and accept. See, when I was writing the status, I realized that people here either do not know how poor we are, or we do not accept it. After all, India is one of the biggest economies in the world, right? We are, but with the amount of resources we possess, and the number of people consuming those resources, we are way below par. I would be so glad if we could start ignoring such things and work towards improving our nation.

And we can start small, by first of all accepting that things are bad. We should not get offended by things that are simple facts. We can’t sit in our AC rooms and say that our country is doing well. I am not saying go out and help the poor or make complex economic policies to improve things, I am just saying that accept that we are poor (and untidy). When we accept it, only then can we start thinking about doing something towards progress. This is the fundamental problem behind all social issues we see. For example, feminism takes a hit in India because people (and at one point in past, even me) consider it unnecessary. We do not accept that there is some bias present on basis of gender. So, nothing is done about it.

And secondly, we need to start fact checking things before sharing. I cannot stress this enough. So much fake news is floated around on social media these days, you can’t trust anything. Go watch On air with AIB’s episode if you want to understand why I am stressing so much on this.