Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Mark Zuckerberg's PR Problem in India

Mark Zuckerberg at the 37th G8 Summit in Deauville 018 v1It's a noble idea. Internet or access to information will radically change the lives of many across the world. It already has for several billions. Why not bridge the digital divide and get more people online, little or no cost?

This is what Mark Zuckerberg wants to do. I for one support the idea. There is however one stumbling block and it has more to do with perception than anything else.

While Mark might be feeling frustrated why so many in India don't get it and why so many people are hostile his noble idea:
He needs to see how and why people perceive it differently.

  1. Yes, it's great to have free internet access but it's not really free internet access. It's a set of apps decided by select mobile operators. If Facebook really wanted to give free internet access, why doesn't it just give that? In India buy a pan India data license and give everyone access on the network for free? 
  2. By working with mobile operators Facebook is ensuring every new Internet user becomes a Facebook user by default. No fault in this if you are going to get that pan India data license and give access to everyone but if you are going to use mobile operators to create a platform to handpick the sites or apps you want to give access to, then that's not net neutrality. 
  3. Yes, India is a country with lots of problems. In the 1980s, India opened up it's telecom with STD/ISD booths. It changed people's lives. Was it free? No. Was it limited to certain numbers you can call? No. It was open access brought in my policy change. It was Satyanarayan Gangaram Pitroda's brain child. A lot of India's development issues have to do with policy and reforms are the only was to solve them. Nobody had to land from West and handout free phones. 
  4. Right now Mark's and Facebook's Free Basic (formerly is seen has a hand out. And that sounds really messed up. Do you really think India lacks the resources or capability to offer low cost or free Internet to the masses? The government of India can do this overnight using, now decaying, state companies, BSNL and MTNL. 
  5. During the late 90s and early 2000's several organisations milked this "CSR" of IT in education to get lucrative state contracts. For the politicians it looked great to be photographed along side a global IT company CEO since it would show the people that he pro-development. For the companies, the government in India remains the largest customer of services. The "CSR" is increasingly seen as tactic to win government business. So when Mark posts about someone in some village somewhere in India using the internet to access information about childcare, sorry, that ship has already sailed.  

If Facebook and Mark wants to change this perception, here is what it needs to do:

  1. Get a pan India data license and give access for free - the license fee can be your contribution of #digitalIndia
  2. Don't do photo ops with politicians - do it only if they give you the data license 
  3. Don't try to push this as CSR (#handout)- it's going to be great for your business be upfront about it. 

Side note: Google is going to give 500 Railway stations Wifi. Everyone is going nuts. But wait... why? Great for headlines but is there a point to this? Indian Railways and the government can do this overnight. How complicated is it to setup wifi at railway stations? Do we really need Google to do this?

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Satya Nadella corrupt as P Mohammed Ali?

Dear Sir, 

I am happy to know that our government is awarding Satya Nadella with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Awards for 2015.

Mr Nadella is a very good example of young Indian technical professionals who honour our nation not just by their skills and financial remittance but also by being recognised for their integrity. 

I am shocked however by the fact that the government has done nothing to strip an convicted corrupt businessman, P Mohammed Ali (Number 64, awarded in 2004). 

Here are from news reports of his conviction: 1,2,3.

As per the Government of India, Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, Notification published on the 6th August, 2010, point 15 names you as the Chairman of the Jury-cum-Awards committee. 

Point 19 of the notification states: 

The President may cancel and annul an Award in the event of any adverse information on the awardees coming to light subsequently. 
I request you to take note of this matter and do what is necessary. Having a corrupt businessman on the rolls of this prestigious award is an insult to others like Mr Nadella.


Jacob Joseph Puthenparambil

Friday, 19 December 2014

AAP: Manish Tewari's response lands him in more trouble. Seems he misled JPC.

Former Congress spokesperson, MP and minister tried to dodge allegations by AAP. It now looks like he response might land him in more trouble.

Here are the documents Manish Tewari published in response:

The trouble seems to be that in the letter to the JPC chairperson, he states he has not been working for telecom from 2005. The expose has a letter he wrote asking for his retainer-ship to extended till 2015.

You can view and download the documents here.

Here is full AAP press conference:

My biggest worry is how many of our MPs and MLAs are on such "retainers"?
What work do you do for seven lakhs a month?
Do you think these MPs and MLAs work for your interest or for those who pay them retainers?


Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Uber still working in Bangkok

Even though the Bangkok Post reported yesterday that Uber private cars are banned in Bangkok. It looks like it is still working.

Here is a grab from my app:

Curious to know if they are still operational in Delhi and rest of India. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

3 things Uber India should have done from a PR PoV

Uber logotype.svg

"Uber logotype" by Uber - (Logotype Guidelines in Uber press kit). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

I had analysed an earlier Uber PR disaster from a crisis communications point of view. Uber seems to be a treasure trove of disaster PR case studies.

If I were PR in-charge for Uber India, here is what I would have done as soon as the incident came to light:

  1. APPOINT a spokesperson who will take calls and answer all questions. Right now you have a GM who is scene running away from the media and the perception is that they have something to hide. The void in any official local communication from Uber is letting the media have an open season for spinning stories from "sources". After a ghastly incident like this there is predictably a lot of public anger and if you are seen as avoiding questions, you will be the main target of the anger. 
  2. SUSPEND all operations in India with immediate effect. This give you control over the narrative. Sure there will be a financial hit but you are company that just raised a billion dollar round with a valuation of $40 Billion. You can put out a proactive statement which states, "We are suspending all operations in India till all Character Certificates submitted to the company are verified by local police authorities." Operations can come back up as this verification is done. By not doing this, you have situation where the police are proactively investigating your company across the country and all your drivers are perceived as rapists. 
  3. REACH OUT to the industry, there are several "app based" taxi booking services across the country. They are all in the same boat, today it's Uber, tomorrow it can be one of them. You need to get all of them together to issue a joint statement and set industry standards for recruiting drivers, GPS, etc. 

Just my two cents.

Monday, 8 December 2014

NRI troll based in Australia, calls #uberrape victim #hoes

Shocking? Prince Sharma (@rockingboyz31) seems upset the Uber rape incident is making news in the US. He goes on to call the victim a "#hoes". 

Prince Sharma describes himself as a computer engineer, blogger, mobile technology enthusiast, gadget geek and freak, national level sportsman, occasional photographer, singer, dancer, ghost hunter.

He things the media anchors are "just barking".  

He gets personal and goes directly to "daughters" if anyone tries to counter him.

And he thinks you are "sexist"

Dear friends in Australia, if you know this guy, please report him to the police and relevant authorities. 

Oh, also he seems to be very well connected to the BJP.

Why just Uber? What about the Delhi Police?

This is a tweet from Hindustan Times with the character certificate issued by Delhi Police to Shiv Kumar Yadav, the alleged Uber rapist:

If the Delhi government is going to ban Uber, what is it going to do to the Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police, Delhi - South East District?
Is he going to be held accountable? It is the certificate he issued and several other like this, companies and and the public are going to use to hire. This guy was arrested and charged for rape in the past too!

Banning Uber is not going to stop rape. Holding those in office and those whose job it is to ensure safety of the public, like the police officer above, will go a long way.

Will the Delhi Government, which is now run by the Union Government via Ministry of Home Affairs, be bold enough to act against the Delhi Police?

Banning Uber is the easy, and perhaps looks good for PR, but it won't change a thing unless the police are held accountable.