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Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal has to walk a tightrope when it comes to India

Nov 30, 2021

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal has to walk a tightrope when it comes to India Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal has to walk a tightrope when it comes to India Twitter now has a CEO who was born in India, completed his schooling and college from here, and still has friends, relatives and parents living in India. Now, he has to walk a tightrope when it comes to Twitter operations in India. Parag Agrawal in the centre (Image: Manish Maheshwari/ Twitter) India Today Tech Story highlights New Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal has a strong India connection. In the last couple of years, Twitter and the Modi government have often been in a tussle. Twitter has faced pressure from Indian users as well as the government. Twitter has a new CEO, and he is someone with a strong India connection. The new Twitter CEO, Parag Agrawal, was born in India. He completed his school and college before moving to the US in 2005 to pursue higher studies. And he still has family and relatives here. This India connection of the new Twitter CEO is in the spotlight as he takes the top seat at the social media company, which is not sailing in smooth waters in India. The challenges are many and come from users who have thousands of complaints against Twitter in India, as well as from the central Indian government that seems to have been miffed with it. In fact, Twitter's last one year or so in India has been rather tough. The company has faced challenges, in court as well as regulatory, after the new IT Rules, 2021 came into force earlier this year. The time for Twitter has been so difficult that the company earlier called Indian MD Manish Maheshwari to the San Francisco office and moved him into a different role while keeping the post he was occupying in India vacant. The move was largely perceived as pulling Maheshwari out of India because there was a real risk of him getting arrested. In the last two years, Twitter and the Indian government have seemingly clashed on several issues. Last year in 2020, the Indian government sent Twitter a directive to block certain tweets and handles, reportedly because they supported farmers protesting against the now-repealed Farm Laws. Twitter initially complied, but after an outcry, it largely reversed its decision. Then there are users on both sides of the political spectrum. While a lot of users with right and far-right political beliefs in India accuse Twitter of being soft on liberals, many liberals claim that Twitter does not take action against right-wing trolls that indulge in hate speech and who often carry out coordinated attacks or hashtag campaigns against individuals, groups and communities. It is in this loaded environment that Parag takes over as Twitter CEO. And he will have to walk a tightrope. This is because one likely reason why Jack Dorsey is leaving the company is because he has not been able to achieve the kind of growth that the Twitter Board and investors want. The user growth is extremely slow, and the ad business is nowhere close to what social media sites like Instagram, TikTok and Facebook are achieving. India, because it is such a sizable market in terms of the number of users, is important for a company like Twitter. But to remain an active force in India, Parag may have to fix his company's broken relations with the Indian government. However, as he does that, he will be undoubtedly watched keenly by many in India as well as abroad, and his company's commitment to transparency, freedom of speech and user rights could be tested. At the same time, he may also have to rebuild the India team, which is currently working in an almost ad-hoc way, particularly after Maheshwari left for the US. For better or worse, in India as well as globally, Twitter is a platform used by all kinds of people to share information and misinformation. Former US President Donald Trump, who reportedly used the website to whip his followers into a frenzy, is still banned on Twitter. While Jack Dorsey was, more or less, considered part of the Team Free Speech, currently, it is not clear on which side of the political spectrum Parag Agrawal falls. Though some of his comments on misinformation, as well as a couple of previous tweets, can hint at something. Almost 11 years ago, Parag made two tweets, which are already angering many on the right-wing side of politics. In one of the tweets, he quoted a line from a TV show. In the other tweet, he mused about having to choose between peace and freedom of speech. The two tweets hint that Parag leans left of the centre, or at least he did 11 years ago. They also hint that he doesn't see the world in black and white. Instead, he believes in nuances. The same approach was reflected in his comments in an interview with the Technology Review last year. In the interview, he acknowledged the importance of the First Amendment in the US but also highlighted that nothing is absolute. He said, "Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment, but our role is to serve a healthy public conversation, and our moves are reflective of things that we believe lead to a healthier public conversation." Vijaya Gadde: The other Indian at Twitter While he navigates Twitter and its India operations, Parag will be aided by another Indian: Twitter Chief Legal Officer Vijaya Gadde. Just like Jack Dorsey, and likely like Parag, Vijaya Gadde too seemingly falls on the liberal side of things. She reportedly takes a dim view of hate speech. According to reports, she was the force behind the ban on Donald Trump earlier in January this year. It is believed that when Twitter ran into issues in India last year and earlier this year, she again played a key role in shaping the direction the company took. So far, the indications are that both Vijaya and Parag think on similar lines when it comes to free speech, its limits, hate speech and the issue of users rights. And both of them seemingly share these views with Jack Dorsey, who is apparently close to both. So, if Parag and Vijaya continue with the approach Twitter has taken so far in India, nothing may change. And it is possible that the relationship between the Indian government and Twitter will continue to be a little thorny. But at the same time, reports also say that Parag is a pragmatic leader. There is likely to be pressure on him to grow business in a way Jack Dorsey has not been able to, and a lot of this growth can only come from countries like India, Turkey and Russia, the places where Twitter has run into issues with the government and regulatory bodies. So, it is possible that there might be some change in the way Twitter operates in India. Whether it is a change that Twitter users in India will like or not is something only time will tell.

Manish Maheshwari Investments

2 Investments

Manish Maheshwari has made 2 investments. Their latest investment was in Goodmeetings as part of their Seed VC on August 8, 2021.

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Manish Maheshwari Investments Activity

investments chart

Date

Round

Company

Amount

New?

Co-Investors

Sources

8/6/2021

Seed VC

Goodmeetings

$1.7M

Yes

1

11/28/2016

Seed VC

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$99M

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10

Date

8/6/2021

11/28/2016

Round

Seed VC

Seed VC

Company

Goodmeetings

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Amount

$1.7M

$99M

New?

Yes

Subscribe to see more

Co-Investors

Sources

1

10

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