These are some of the key differences gleaned from an analysis of Twitter activity of prominent Indian and global business leaders in the three-month period between 25 March (when Indian entered its first pandemic-induced lockdown) and 24 June. One common feature among them is the discussion around the pandemic, which featured prominently in the tweets of most business leaders.
Indian business leaders were more prolific in tweeting during this period but they received lesser traction compared to their global peers. On average, the tweets of the global set received six times as many retweets as those of the Indian set.
The analysis is based on a sample of 9,099 tweets from 20 top business leaders, who were selected based on their business clout, Twitter activity, and Twitter following. Beginning this week, Mint will track the Twitter activity of these 20 business leaders in a dashboard that will appear each Wednesday on the Plain Facts page.
For the Indian set, we drew up a long list of 109 leaders whose personal net worth, as listed by Forbes on June 2, exceeded $1 billion. From this long list, we chose the 10 leaders who were most active on Twitter (most were not on the platform) and had a considerable following. For the global set, we started with the top 125 by personal net worth, as listed by Forbes on June 2. Most were not on Twitter. Hence, we chose 5 leaders from this set who were active on Twitter and had a sizeable following. For the remaining 5, we considered the set of the CEOs of the top 50 companies by market capitalization (as on June 2), and used Twitter activity and follower counts to filter the top five.
Each of the two groups is broad and heterogenous. Within them, there are many nuances and quirks. For example, in the global set, Marc Benioff of cloud-computing company Salesforce likes to retweet Time, the iconic magazine he and his wife bought in 2018.
Elon Musk is irreverence personified, switching between talking about—and talking up—his companies, Tesla and SpaceX, and opening conversations with his 36 million followers. Such is his popularity on Twitter that eight of the 15 most-retweeted tweets of these 20 leaders were his. By comparison, the CEOs of the global tech troika—Tim Cook of Apple, Sundar Pichai of Google, and Satya Nadella of Microsoft—are typically more muted and measured.
Among the Indian set, three business leaders stand out: Harsh Goenka of the RPG Group, who talks about everything under the sun; Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw of Biocon, who has been vocal on many issues around the ongoing pandemic; and Anand Mahindra, who is the most-followed Indian leader in this set, with 7.9 million followers. Businessmen such as Uday Kotak, Sachin Bansal, and Nandan Nilekani are much more reticent, and don’t even average a tweet a day.
As opposed to Goenka, Nilekani’s tweeting is narrower, and centred around e-governance policies. Nilekani is the chairman of the board of Infosys Ltd. and had helped set up the Aadhaar unique identity (UID) project for the Indian government earlier.
In general, global business leaders tend to be much more focused on their companies compared to Indian business leaders. For the global set, about 42% of tweets revolved around their own company against 10% for the Indian set. A large share of tweets by Musk, Cook, and Pichai were centred around their own firms.
For both sets of business leaders, the covid-19 pandemic occupied significant mindspace, accounting for about one-fifth of all tweets for the Indian set and one-fourth for the global set. Among Indian leaders, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw had the largest share of covid-related tweets. Among global leaders, Michael Bloomberg tweeted relatively more on covid-19.
A noticeable difference between Indian and global business leaders lies in the pattern of their tweets relating to governance, social, and political issues. In quantitative terms, the Indian set bettered the global set (11% versus 7%). But comments from Indian leaders on government matters, including on the pandemic handling, were more about amplifying the government’s message and less about critiquing the health and economic response to the ongoing crisis.
In stark contrast, when US President Donald Trump suspended medium-term work visas for the year, Cook, Pichai and Nadella condoned it both as a hiring setback for the tech industry as well as an anti-immigrant move in a broader context.
These tech leaders also put their personal and company weight behind the racial equality (‘Black Lives Matter’) movement in the US in unambiguous terms.
It remains to be seen how far Indian business leaders get inspired by their global counterparts. This page will track their tweets in the coming weeks and months.
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