Snapchat fiasco shows India is not just poor but some Indians are also stupid

In the middle of this storm over a statement attributed to Snapchat CEO, you got to feel for Snapdeal. Wait what? Yes, that is the same question I asked myself every time I saw my Twitter and Facebook feed yesterday. So outrageous are the Indians over what the Snapchat CEO said that they are uninstalling Snapdeal and rating it 1 star in the Google Play store because the word "Snap". It is as if there are thousands of Indian smartphone users who can't comprehend the difference between Snapdeal and Snapchat.

As the joke that is doing rounds on social media says, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel should not have said that India is poor, instead he should have said "India is poor and some Indians are stupid".

And isn't that all kind of sad? But before we talk about that, let's take a quick look at what the Snapdeal controversy is all about. There is more to it than what you have read in headlines. Or less, depending on how you look at it.

No direct statement

Do you know what Snapchat CEO actually said? Guess what, there is no direct statement from him on this topic. He didn't say that India is a poor country publicly. It has been said, in a court document filed by a disgruntled employee, that the Snapchat CEO said he wasn't bothered with poor countries like India and Spain. "This app is only for rich people. I don't want to expand into poor countries like India and Spain," reads the statement that has been attributed to Spiegel. Since then another report has come out in The Information, a widely respected tech news site, which confirms that such a statement was indeed made.

But whether the statement was made or not, there are a couple of things to keep in mind here.

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  1. One, the statement has not been made directly. Unlike some other stupid statements in the West about India -- and there have been some -- made in public, this one was probably made in an internal company meeting. It's somewhat similar to a statement an Indian company CEO may make in an internal meeting and say that the company is not planning to extend services in Bihar because there are no roads there, while talking about business strategy with his team.
  2. Two, the statement is accurate whether made by Spiegel or not. India is indeed a poor country. And while you can argue that it has a number of billionaires and millionaires, you have to see India from Snapchat's perspective. It puts India in a category to poor countries "like Spain". Spain has a per capita income of over $32,000. India has a per capita income of little over $5000. What this shows is that Snapchat probably has a business model where it only wants to target extremely rich regions. Let alone India, even Spain, which is a developed country, doesn't make the cut for Snapchat.

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And if Spain doesn't make a cut, how can India where millions still live on wages that amount to less than a dollar every day, where basic infrastructure like roads, hospitals, electricity, sanitation, clean water are still pipe-dreams for many, where hundreds of millions are land-less and house-less, where for millions living is all about surviving for a day, day after day, can be considered a market for Snapchat?

Now whether Snapchat's business model is right or wrong is different point altogether. But I fail to understand why Indians should be feel so outraged just because app doesn't consider India as its natural growth market. I mean have you seen the Twitter and Facebook feeds of Spaniards? Are they outraging and uninstalling Snapchat? And actually they have stronger ground for outraging because Snapchat CEO is allegedly calling them poor and they are not even poor. Spain is a developed country with per capita income that is six times that of India's.

Triggered nation

Of late, India has acquired a kind of reputation on the web. The reputation is that Indians are easy to trigger. Say some nonsense about India on Reddit, or in a forum, or on social media and Indians will get triggered. The triggered nation, that is what the Reddit folks say about India. And the Snapchat fiasco shows that this description is not without its merits.

Outraging over something genuine can be understood. Up to an extent. But outraging over comments that a CEO possibly made in an internal meeting while chalking out business strategy for his privately held company just shows that there is something wrong with the nation. I find it hard to believe that India as a nation has such low self-esteem that we get triggered by any, even most benign remark, and go up in arms. But of late, the evidence grows stronger that it is indeed the case.

But the absolute worst bit about the whole Snapchat fiasco is the stupidity that it brings to the fore. In the last two days a number of web users have left bad ratings for Snapdeal, an India-based e-commerce site, because Snapchat CEO made some comments. The same outraging users, who are claiming that they are the smart and not-poor users who ought to be respected by Snapchat, are uninstalling Snapdeal and giving it 1 star at Google Play store. How smart of them! They lack the comprehension, may be because of all that rage inside them, to differentiate between a chat app and an e-com site. At least that is the impression that goes. As far as I see it, that is not a great way to advertise India to the world. It just makes the whole country look like a bunch of illiterates.