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Snapchat to Amazon India: A timeline of companies landing in a soup for being 'anti-India'

Snapchat CEO’s alleged ‘poor country’ remark led to a collateral damage gripping Snapdeal which has nothing to do with the controversy.

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Is India really an ‘intolerant’ country? Well, if recent happenings in the tech world is anything to go by, we would rather be skeptical of exercising our right to freedom of speech and expression. This past weekend was quite charged up with Snapchat (not Snapdeal!) CEO Evan Spiegel’s alleged remarks on India being a ‘poor country’ which doesn’t make it worthy to be considered for expansion. What followed was #BoycottSnapchat trending on Twitter India, along with a hilarious case of mistaken identity, where Snapdeal had to deal the backlash for having a similar reading name.

India, which is currently the hot testing bed for a number of big names from the technology sector, has had its share of name-calling and looked-down-upon moments. Whether an attempt at gaining publicity or an instance of a misquoted or misinterpreted statement; Indians have been quite aggressive when it comes to answering back in such situations, to the extent of impacting the business in real-time. To put into perspective, the comment allegedly made by Spiegel not only made the otherwise popular app lose interest among fans, but also led to a sharp downfall in its ratings on the app store.

If we look back, there are plenty of instances when remarks about India have landed tech biggies in major soup. Snapdeal is currently bearing the brunt of angry users who are uninstalling the e-commerce app instead of Snapchat for all the wrong reasons. So much so that Snapdeal CEO Kunal Bahl had to post out a tweet clarifying the two apps were different.  ALSO READ: Snapchat denies calling India a ‘poor country’; BoycottSnapchat trends on Twitter

Snapdeal is not mistaken in this instance, but in 2015, owing to the company’s then ambassador Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s remark on ‘intolerance’, many Indians uninstalled the app as a way of protest. The actor had spoken openly on the controversy over the issue of intolerance at an awards night. What escalated the issue was his wife Kiran Rao’s suggestion on moving out of India. Not only did the protest compel Snapdeal to remove Aamir Khan as its brand ambassador, but also invited poor ratings on app stores.

Meanwhile, Uber – with its slightly tainted history of abusive drivers and alleged rape incidents – recently had one of its executives draw ire of Indians for passing offensive remarks. Christian Freese, the general manager for Uber’s Bangalore office, said “folks were rather locked up at home,” before Uber was launched in the country. He further added, “Now you can see people go out, especially on the weekend. You just press a button and the car is there.”  This did not go down too well with Indians who dropped their sarcasm-bombs on Freese saying that before Uber, Indians “rode elephants” for everyday travel. ALSO READ: Users uninstall Snapdeal app, give 1-star rating to protest Aamir Khan’s intolerant India comment

For Amazon, another non-Indian company, having products which dishonored the national flag and religious deities, brought hard luck. Last year, Amazon faced the wrath of Indians for selling doormats and other such products with religious figures on its US website. Yet again, the issue heated up with #BoycottAmazon trending on Twitter India, with users threatening to uninstall the app and give negative ratings to the app.

In the past, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ cover on the Fortune magazine as Lord Vishu brought the company and the chief a great amount of infamy. The magazine’s January 2016 cover depicted Bezos as Lord Vishnu, complete with a lotus in one hand and the Amazon logo on the other palm. Later, Alan Murray, Editor of Fortune magazine, apologized for the offensive cover.  ALSO READ: BoycottAmazon trends after Amazon sells doormats with Hindu Gods

Last month, China-based smartphone manufacturer OPPO came under the radar after one of its officials of the Chinese origin allegedly tore the Indian national flag and threw it in a trashcan at the company’s Noida plant. Following the incident, the company fired the employee and apologized for his actions. Clothing label Tommy Hilfiger too has been embroiled in a controversy over racist comments. Hilfiger had allegedly made a statement saying he didn’t want Indians to wear his brand. Later in 2007, he appeared on the Oprah show to denounce the rumors.

These incidents happen at a rather inopportune moment when the country is drawing attention from some of the major tech names in the world, including Apple, Facebook, and Google. All of these companies not only see India as a growing economy where their products witness path-breaking success as compared to their own home countries, but also take the country’s experimental youth as drivers of change which have the potential to actually make or break a mass product.

  • Published Date: April 17, 2017 2:42 PM IST