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Conversations Sans Frontiers

10/12/2014 8:01 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
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Logos for Twitter Inc.'s TweetDeck app, center left, and Twitter app, center right, are seen on the screen of an Apple Inc. iPhone in this arranged photograph taken in London, U.K., on Tuesday, May 7, 2013. TweetDeck apps for Apple Inc. iPhones, Google Inc. Android devices, Mac computers and machines that run Microsoft Corp.'s Windows will be removed from app stores in May, San Francisco-based Twitter Inc. said in a blog post. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomber

It should hardly come as a surprise to anyone that India is about to leave America behind in terms of Internet and mobile phone users.

India is expected to have 300 million Internet users by end of this year, literally one Indian Internet user for every man, woman and child in the United States. More staggering is the statistic of the over 900 million mobile phone users today, which is more than twice the size of the entire US population.

Indians have always been great with new technology -- the Internet, then mobiles and today social media. So, it's hardly surprising that every consumer facing brand craves a piece of the action.

As far as Twitter is concerned, there's never been a better time for an Indian to be on the platform. More and more people are finally starting to understand that social media goes far beyond connecting with your friends. Today, via social media, you can find out what our government is doing to improve relations with the US, while learning about Farhan Akhtar's inspiration for his new film, and grieving along with the cricketing world for a young life cut short more than halfway across the world. All of this happens in real time.

A primary example of this connection is Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He won an almost unprecedented mandate in what many are dubbing the first #TwitterElection and now has over eight million followers on Twitter. But his continued innovation is what is fascinating. His dream of getting every ministry is on track, as today 40 ministries are engaging with citizens on Twitter. The idea is to do grass root governance and give you and your fellow citizens, a forum to connect with ministries and come up with solutions in real time. It also allows you to make accountable those whose job it is to work for the betterment of society. PM Modi of course has taken things to another level with 'Twitter Diplomacy'.

In a country that faces so many nuanced and large scale issues, just like innovative governance solutions, awareness is a big factor in aiding progress too. If you take the case of the remarkable journey of Satyamev Jayate, the issues being discussed on the show have spawned deep conversations on social media, too. And more than ever before. This year, there was a 300% increase in conversation on Twitter about the show as compared to last year. What this means is that you were connecting with your fellow Indians on issues that mattered to you. Tweeting while you watch a TV show brings people closer together all over the country, it's like a shared living room where everyone can join in the conversation.

Which is why, when you're a part of the nearly 12 million followers that Amitabh Bachchan has, not only do you have a chance to listen and sometimes speak to them, but also connect with those like you who have similar interests. What almost every notable celebrity and leader is also starting to do is reward their followers with exclusive, behind-the-scenes and often candid moments that is nearly impossible to find elsewhere. A case in point is how the cast of the Happy New Year movie (including Shah Rukh Khan and Deepika Padukone) sent out personalised posters and trailers to their fans, only on Twitter.

It's also the same reason why we want to use Twitter to enhance the experience of millions of Indian cricket fans. As India prepares to defend the ICC Cricket World Cup next year, we believe the roar of the crowd will be heard on Twitter, just like during the Indian Premier League. You will be able to give your opinion as well as tap into conversations during each game or vote for your favourite World Cup moment all with the idea to include you in every part of the conversation. In fact, India is driving the global conversation of cricket on Twitter, bringing fans closer to the cricket stars and action, both on and off the pitch.

But social media isn't just about the big ticket items like cricket or Bollywood, it is a lot more. To me, it is the self-expression of the newfound confidence of India. It's an opportunity to seek your new world. Twitter, we'd like to believe, is also helping connect people who want to make things better for society. A case in point @BloodDonorsIN, an account dedicated to matching blood donors with those in need. The J&K Flood relief work earlier in the year got a boost as people used Twitter to communicate where one could find aid and to pass on real-time information about the rescue efforts.

India's diversity means there's several microcosms within the country, but the thirst to discover the world, connect those with similar interests, and express their ideas unites us with people all over the world. All those people and their thoughts are waiting to be discovered on social media, on Twitter, today.

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